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.”