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A redacted image of the letter Microsoft sent out.  (Source: TechCrunch)
Accounting error sees HR scrambling to get some of its money back

What’s something worse than being pink slipped? If you’re a former Microsoft employee, it could be having some of your severance pay taken back.

According to TechCrunch, someone at Microsoft made an accounting error when calculating laid-off employees’ severance pay, resulting in some checks being mailed out that were a little too generous. Now, Microsoft wants that money back.

“An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft,” reads a letter the company mailed out. “We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you.”

TechCrunch reports a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the letters but refused to give specific details, calling it an internal, private matter between the company and the employees it let go.

The spokesperson did confirm, however, that the error worked both ways: while some employees were overcompensated, others received less than what they were entitled to.

A photograph of one of these letters, provided anonymously, shows little more than a request for the money back and some important tax information, with some rather curious advice on how repayment “in a later calendar year” would affect the receiver’s taxes.

CNET suggests the letter contained a “veiled threat” of monetary punishment, but given the aforementioned tax suggestion it is hard to see how the letter, in and of itself, sports teeth. There is no mentioned deadline.

On a rather humorous side note, a poll accompanying the TechCrunch article suggests that almost 75% of the 8,000 total voters would ignore the letter and keep the cash – and only 13% would immediately give the money back.

UPDATE 23-Feb-2009: Microsoft reversed its stance and is now letting the overpaid employees keep the extra money.

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Refund of Severance
By GreenTiger on 2/23/2009 3:52:37 AM , Rating: -1
What a bunch of greedy bastards, you take away their jobs and and then you want them to return parts of their severence pay.

Isn't Microsoft rich enough? Perhaps its time for an Apple.

RE: Refund of Severance
By InternetGeek on 2/23/2009 5:47:56 AM , Rating: 1
Well, an accountancy error means the money they want back is not part of the employees' severance pay. Also, it is quite possible many, if not most, will find another job in a short timeframe.

RE: Refund of Severance
By Ananke on 2/23/2009 7:07:14 PM , Rating: 2
MS made a mistake calculating the severence packages, i.e. the wrong amount is stated already. I don't see any legal way for MS to have their money back, unless people voluntarily returned them :)

RE: Refund of Severance
By Ananke on 2/23/2009 7:10:37 PM , Rating: 2
Just to add, an accountancy error means that the money were suppposed to be different in the severence package, not the checks. MS kind of greatly screwed themselves here :):)

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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