TikTok's US employees are scared they won't get paid if the app is banned and now they're planning to sue the Trump administration

  • A US TikTok employee, Patrick Ryan, has launched a crowdfunder to sue the Trump administration over the president's executive order banning TikTok from September.
  • Ryan believes the executive order will mean TikTok can't pay its 1,500 US employees, and his lawyer plans to file a suit next week.
  • Trump signed the executive order on August 6, barring US individuals and businesses from doing business with TikTok's Chinese parent firm ByteDance from September 20.
  • "The fear is that we will not be able to receive our paychecks after September 20," Patrick Ryan, a technical program manager, told Business Insider. "I'm concerned my constitutional rights are being violated here."
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The long-awaited lawsuit against Donald Trump from TikTok is here – sort of.

While the company itself holds off on threatened legal action to counteract Trump's executive order, which will ban the company from the United States from September, TikTok employees are rallying around a suit that will attempt to lodge an injunction ensuring employees continue to get paid.

The man behind the prospective legal action, TikTok technical program manager Patrick Ryan, has chipped in $5,000 of his own cash as an attempt to get the fighting fund to its $30,000 goal.

Ryan launched a GoFundMe page on August 12 which has so far seen 29 other donors contribute $4,073 to enable TikTok to continue to pay its 1,500 employees in the United States.

He believes that the executive order issued by Donald Trump, which would make it illegal for any US entity to transact business with TikTok after 45 days if a deal is not done to sell the company to a US firm, would be unconstitutional.

"That means after September 20th, myself and 1,500 of my colleagues won't be able to receive a paycheck because it'll be illegal for the company to pay us," said Ryan in a video he posted to TikTok.

"The fear is that we will not be able to receive our paychecks after September 20," he told Business Insider. "I'm concerned my constitutional rights are being violated here. I don't mean to sound overly lawyerly, but due process is a concept, and this is one example where that's really violated."

"There's been no due process here," he added. "There's been no procedural process that would lead any employee who works at TikTok now to conclude this type of thing would even be possible."

Ryan said he wasn't sure why Trump had decided to pass his executive order.

"I'm not being facetious," he said. "This is in fact the point of a decision made without due process. People are like: 'What is it?'"

Ryan claims to have the support of a number of employees concerned about their future with the company – and their future income – but the processes involved in constitutional rights lawsuits mean it only requires a single person to be the plaintiff.

Ryan, who joined TikTok's California office in March 2020 after more than nine years at Google, says he informed TikTok about his plan to take legal action and they neither supported nor stopped him. (He didn't expect them to support him, he said, because it's a personal rights matter.)

Ryan will be represented by Mike Godwin, a Washington DC-based civil liberties lawyer, and member of the board of trustees of the Internet Society.

"It can't be the case that president Trump wants to destroy a social media platform just because it makes fun of him, but then apparently that's what happens," Godwin told Business Insider, citing comedian Sarah Cooper's popular TikTok videos mocking the US president.

"Once you see something that looks so bizarre happening, you feel that you have to find a way to be helpful," he said.

Godwin foresees filing the lawsuit on behalf of Ryan whether or not the GoFundMe reaches its $30,000 target. "Sometime by the end of next week we'll have a lawsuit filed," he said.

"We don't want to let this dispute mature. We think it's an emergency and needs to be pursued now. We want to draw attention to the fact that this is the White House trying to destroy the jobs of 1,500 workers."

TikTok declined to comment.

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