TikTok employee to file lawsuit

A TikTok employee is mounting a legal challenge on behalf of the company’s U.S.-based workers in response to President Trump’s order banning American transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese firm that owns the wildly popular short-form video app.

The march toward a lawsuit comes amid growing uncertainty regarding the company’s fate in the U.S. following recent executive actions that targeted social media apps with links to China over national security concerns.

Patrick Ryan, a technical program manager at TikTok, told The Hill that his lawsuit will focus on the constitutional right to due process, arguing it’s not the president’s purview “to permit or to not permit entire businesses on a whim.”

He said about 1,500 TikTok and ByteDance employees are at risk of not receiving paychecks when Trump’s orders take effect next month.

Ryan said the complaint will seek an injunction preventing the government from enforcing the order against U.S. workers.

A GoFundMe to support the cost of litigation has raised about half of its $30,000 goal since launching on Wednesday.

The Blackstone Law Group and Mike Godwin, a prominent internet rights lawyer, were retained to represent TikTok’s U.S. employees. They are expecting to file a lawsuit in federal court later this week that argues Trump’s action represents executive overreach and places workers’ constitutional rights, including the right to be paid, in jeopardy.

The attorneys said they are considering filing in the Southern District of New York, Northern California or Washington, D.C.

The complaint will also be filed as part of an effort to gain a better understanding of how the Commerce Department plans to apply the ban on transactions.

“We don’t necessarily know whether it is the intention of the government to prevent them from being paid,” said Alexander Urbelis, a partner with Blackstone Law Group, adding the Trump administration has yet to provide clarity on the issue.

But he noted that without an injunction, more than a thousand workers could see their income disappear during a pandemic.

“Livelihoods are being put at stake by the executive order,” Urbelis said.