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Company reverses stance its critics panned as heartless

What’s better than being laid off by Microsoft, overpaid on your severance, and then being told you had to pay that overage back? Finding out that you can keep the extra cash, of course.

Microsoft appears to have doubled back on its request to get the extra money back from the laid-off workers it sent larger-than-supposed-to-be severance checks to, after the company realized it was heading straight into a PR hurricane of bad press.

“I thought it didn't make sense for us to continue on the path we were on,” said Microsoft senior VP for human resources Lisa Brummel in an interview with CNET. “I have called now 22 out of the 25 impacted employees, only because I haven't had time to get to the three but I will after we hang up.”

Microsoft overpaid 25 workers, said Brummel, for an amount of money that averages about $4,000 to $5,000. The accounting error worked both ways, however. An additional 20 workers were instead underpaid on their severance, and Microsoft has since mailed out an additional check to cover the difference.

An additional statement from an unnamed Microsoft spokesperson noted that the whole ordeal was “a mistake on our part.”

“We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals,” it read.

Brummel says it makes sense for a company to attempt to recover some of its losses resulting from an accounting error. She related a similar story of her own: when the company overpaid her some time ago, she promptly returned the extra cash in the form of a check.

Indeed, asking for the money back is the normal course of action for Microsoft. “Occasionally, we have clerical errors,” Brummel told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “We rectify that by paying them (more) if they were underpaid and asking them to pay back the money if they were overpaid.”

The ask-nicely policy was untested for layoffs, however, as the 5,000 jobs it cut were Microsoft’s first ever – resulting in a “unique population” for HR to handle.

New checks have been put in place to deter accounting errors in the future, said Brummel. “My hope is that no one makes a clerical error again, but that's silly to think it will never happen.”

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Double Standard
By DtTall on 2/23/2009 10:26:20 PM , Rating: 2
It is a bad position to be in, and there is no good way to deal with what happened here. But I still think it is a double standard.

If Microsoft messed up and short changed some people they want extra money but Microsoft messes up and gives extra the people don't want to give it back.

Personally I I get it from a PR standpoint, but I think it also shows just how self-centered people can be. Being bitter that you lost your job doesn't give you the right to steal from Microsoft.

Just think if you are at a local store and they give you the wrong change and realize it right away and you just walk out. The cops will be coming for you. Again, it sucks for the ex-employees, but it my eyes it just makes them look bad not Microsoft.

RE: Double Standard
By StevoLincolnite on 2/23/2009 11:20:07 PM , Rating: 3
Honestly Microsoft wont desperately miss the money, they have a larger income than most small Governments in this world, hence if they buggered up and have to pay out 25 - 50 million extra, it would be just a shrug of the shoulders to them.

The way they can loose out on this however is bad Press. They have enough of that from Vista and the Xbox 360 RROD, they want to start looking like the "Shining Knight in Golden Armor".
And not look like some crazy old man standing on top of a tall mountain in the middle of a thunderstorm wearing copper armor waving a sword in the air and yelling "There is no god".

RE: Double Standard
By inighthawki on 2/24/2009 12:32:39 AM , Rating: 2
Regardless of how much money they make, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't get back whats rightfully theirs. Not to mention, no matter how large your income, 25-50 million is still a lot, and can potentially be put to use. (Whether or not this use is better or worse than distributing it to those people can be argued)

RE: Double Standard
By Alexstarfire on 2/24/2009 2:48:49 AM , Rating: 2
It's never that simple. Bad press can hurt far more than the very small sum of money they lost. I'm not saying it's right by any means, just stating some facts.

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