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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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How much?
By Suntan on 2/23/2009 9:28:11 AM , Rating: 0
It would be really nice if stories like this had some substance behind just the headlines.

How much of a difference are we talking about? Are they asking for a couple hundred or thousand back, or did the screwup result in a staggeringly large amount that any normal person would know was an error?

Normally when a person is laid off, the terms of the severance package are laid out by HR in person (including the amount or percentage of annual compensation) and signed on. If the check that came later was in error, there really is no reason why a person should think they have a right to keep the difference. Any info what-so-ever that this happened? Or is it easier to just ignore this part because it paints a more flame-worthy target to get people to argue about it after the story is posted?


RE: How much?
By aapocketz on 2/23/2009 12:22:51 PM , Rating: 2
...some rather curious advice on how repayment “in a later calendar year” would affect the receiver’s taxes.

I cannot see the advice on taxes mentioned in the article, its not in the image I see. Is there another image of the bottom part?

I knew someone whose pay was entered in wrong so their first bi-weekly paycheck out of college was like 50K. It was flagged and she had to pay it back, but still. That would be a nice weekend in Vegas. Or take the paystub to get a big loan or something.

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