Just days after alerting laid off employees that it had overpaid on their severances and would require a refund, Microsoft reversed course and told them to simply keep the money. It's amazing what a little bad press can do.
"I got wind of this a couple of days ago and said 'I'm not sure this makes sense,'" Microsoft senior vice president for human resources Lisa Brummel said. "I consider this a unique time and circumstance, and I believe this is not a case where we should ask employees to repay an overpayment."
Brummel also revealed some of the previously unknown details about the severance gaffe, such as how many ex-employees were affected and by much. She said that 25 of the 1400 people laid off in January received the letters asking for repayment. The average overpayment was about $4500, she said.
In addition, Brummel said that 20 people who were let go were actually underpaid; they were alerted as well, along with a check making up the difference. No word yet on whether Microsoft Excel was used to calculate the severance check amounts. (Seriously. Brummel said she didn't know.)
Good natured kidding aside, kudos to Brummel for personally calling most of the 25 people who were overpaid and deciding to forgive the mistake. But it does beg the question: How did this mess happen in the first place? Surely Microsoft knew the kind of public mocking they would receive for such financial pettiness.