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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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RE: Legal?
By Kougar on 2/23/2009 9:54:55 AM , Rating: 5
Think of it like a banking error. You deposited a check or some cash, and the attendant added an extra digit to the total when inputing it into the machine. Or, you cashed a check and received both the money back AND your account was credited with a deposit anyway.

Just because they made the error doesn't give you the legal right to keep the money. If you spent the "free" money you could find yourself owing it to the bank anyway if they catch the mistake.

To be able to keep the money from a banking error and be in the clear the person would need the issue to not be detected until after the statute of limitations has expired (which varies depending on the state in question).

RE: Legal?
By mcnabney on 2/23/2009 10:45:45 AM , Rating: 2
When you term someone you have to pay them right then. Those checks were likely handed directly to the employee by the HR persona and the value was discussed during the exit interview. That means any error in that value is not an error anymore and is documented formally as the severance value.

RE: Legal?
By mikeblas on 2/23/2009 11:10:14 AM , Rating: 2
No, you don't. And no, they weren't.

RE: Legal?
By emoser96 on 2/23/2009 11:23:39 PM , Rating: 2
But.... Monopoly says you get to keep the money. It must be true... Micropoly FTW!

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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