Microsoft, portrayed as a Scrooge for asking laid-off workers to repay erroneous severance overpayments, has had a change of heart. Today, Microsoft human resources chief Lisa Brummel told CNET that "it didn't make sense for us to continue on the path we were on."
Over the weekend, news of the overpayments hit the Internet and immediately created a stir - launching a debate among readers commenting on my own blog post about the ethics of returning what doesn't belong to you. In an unofficial ZDNet poll of more than 12,000 readers, a whopping 72 percent said they would keep the money and make Microsoft sue to get it back.
Of the 1,400 workers let go last month, about 25 were overpaid to the tune of about $4,000 to $5,000 each, according to the CNET report. Additionally, about 20 laid-off workers were underpaid, Brummel said. She said that, in most cases, it makes sense for companies to recover money overpaid due to accounting errors but call this situation an extraordinary one. Brummell said she has spoken individually to most of the affected employees already to update them on their severance packages.
A final thought: I've been known to beat up on Microsoft over Vista, slam it for its ad campaign and mock it for taking so long to roll out its products. But I will say that the company reacted quickly and correctly on this matter. Good for you, Microsoft.