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Microsoft Asks For a Refund From Laid-Off Workers [updated]

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the sorry-for-any-inconvenience dept.

Microsoft 424

An anonymous reader writes "The large print giveth, the small print taketh away. Microsoft, which recently laid off 1400 employees, is now claiming that some of those lucky schmoes were inadvertently overpaid on their severance package. A letter from the company, which was subsequently circulated on the internet, states: 'We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you.' Microsoft has confirmed the authenticity of the letter, but it's not known what the amounts in question are, or how many of the 1400 were affected." Update: 02/24 14:00 GMT by T : VinylRecords writes "Well, now Microsoft has recanted, saying that the situation has resulted in unfortunate amounts of bad press and public relations. 'This was a mistake on our part,' said a Microsoft spokesman in an e-mailed statement. 'We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner.'"

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424 comments

No accident (1, Troll)

mbstone (457308) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952591)

There's nothing at all accidental about it. It's a cruel joke perpetrated by cruel people.

Re:No accident (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952651)

There's nothing at all accidental about it. It's a cruel joke perpetrated by cruel people.

Yea, definitely. I bet those guys over in payroll were all like "Hahah, wouldn't it be hilarious if we paid those losers that got fired more than we should? We'd give the company even more bad press, and if we're lucky we might even get fired ourselves!"

Re:No accident (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953423)

Microsoft must be using a Holmes IV mainframe for their accounting. The best way to fix it might be to feed it lots of jokes.

Re:No accident (4, Funny)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952701)

What do you mean it's in my contract? You mean that 50 page thing full of legal jargon? Who has time to read that? I just scrolled down and clicked "I accept."

Re:No accident (5, Insightful)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953007)

This just sounds symptomatic of a bureaucracy, which any sufficiently large company becomes over time when it passes a magic threshold of size, complexity and number of employees. It used to happen regularly when I was in the military, and to me and/or my troops on a number of occasions. (Started to become much more rare when the Defense Finance and Accounting Service - DFAS- automated in the, what, mid-nineties?) Sometimes I would catch the error first and try to repay it, only to be told I'd have to wait until the "system caught up." So, I'd just bank the money, then wait until I'd either be surprised by a zeroed pay-check, an angry memo, or both. So, then I'd go back to the "disbursing" office and straighten it out by repaying the overage now that the "system" is prepared to receive it. A bureaucracy is neither evil, good, nor even conscious; it just seems that way. Who said, "never ascribe to evil what can be explained by stupidity"? They call bureaucracies "mindless" for a reason.

Re:No accident (5, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953443)

Oh man, no joke.

Guys used to have mysterious allotments coming out of their LES' now and then, with little recourse to find out other than some pay clerk telling you to do a "pay inquiry". Over-payments, no-pay-due's, all kinds of random stuff that was just inevitable in a paper-and-red-tape bureaucracy.

Re:No accident (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953011)

I don't know why you got "trolled" for this. While I could quibble slightly with the word "joke" (cavalier neglect would be my take on it), when you refer to this as cruel, you're spot-on.

I tend to be a non-admirer of Microsoft in general, but I don't think this is a uniquely Microsoft thing. It is, rather, the same greed and cruelty that seems to have overtaken much of corporate America. At such times one wants to believe in karma, divine retribution, or perhaps pursuit by the Furies.

Re:No accident (1, Funny)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953197)

There's nothing at all accidental about it. It's a cruel joke perpetrated by cruel people.

Another funny one would be if everyone that's been forced to 'buy' a microsoft OS when they bought a laptop on which they intend to install l00nix were to ask for a refund.

Rubbin' salt on the old wounds! (5, Funny)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952595)

What if they agree to use their severance to buy Vista: Ultimate Edition?

Re:Rubbin' salt on the old wounds! (5, Funny)

basscomm (122302) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952655)

What if they agree to use their severance to buy Vista: Ultimate Edition?

What if their severance pay was Vista: Ultimate Edition?

Re:Rubbin' salt on the old wounds! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953023)

>What if their severance pay was Vista: Ultimate Edition?

The poor bastards!
That is like getting fired out a cannon, into a wall, which then falls on you.

Re:Rubbin' salt on the old wounds! (5, Funny)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952695)

It's almost as if Ballmer threw these employees' chairs out the window and now he's billing them to replace the broken window! Good luck collecting this, Micro$oft!

Re:Rubbin' salt on the old wounds! (1, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952799)


It's almost as if Ballmer threw these employees' chairs out the window and now he's billing them to replace the broken window! Good luck collecting this, Micro$oft!

There you have it the real cause of why Windows Vista doesn't work: chairs ;)

Re:Rubbin' salt on the old wounds! (2, Funny)

SwabTheDeck (1030520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953395)

I'd say it's more like Ballmer threw his chair AT the employees and is asking them to pay the medical bills for his sprained wrist.

Large, unmarked bills. (4, Informative)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952607)

"A letter from the company, which was subsequently circulated on the internet, states: 'We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you.' Microsoft has confirmed the authenticity of the letter, but it's not known what the amounts in question are, or how many of the 1400 were affected."

How's that any different than when the government overpays you?

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (4, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952637)

It depends on where the math got fucked up. If MS signed off on papers that promised the inflated amount, it's SOL. That would explain why they're asking for it, rather than sending legal demands.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (4, Interesting)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952749)

That's one of the reasons. If the overpayment is small enough, it wouldn't be worth the bad PR to sue their former workers. They also have a poor chance of winning in a trial by jury- people are going to be biased for the workers. Besides, asking for the money politely doesn't stop them from filing legal proceedings later- in fact, judges prefer you to try to fix issues before filing papers.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (2, Interesting)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952777)

Well, they're probably SOL regardless (unless the sum involved was absurd.) They chose to terminate the employee, they chose the terms, they asked for a promise to not sue (for overtime, unused vacation, discrimination, etc) in exchange for some cash. They paid, and now think they paid the wrong amount: good luck winning this one in court.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (5, Insightful)

grommit (97148) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952849)

They probably won't need luck if the following happened. Paperwork is drawn up stating that the terminated employee gets paid $2,000. Supervisor and employee sign off on that sum. Retard typing in the info for the check keys in $20,000 instead of $2,000.

The employee can't possibly think that he/she actually deserves the extra $18,000 after agreeing to the original sum.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (4, Interesting)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952993)

As I said, "absurd" numbers are easy to fix, but even $18K is tough to clawback from, for example, an employee with a five year work history. Heck, when I quit my last job, a nice lady from HR emailed me asking about unused vacation days: I picked a number, and it was close to $18K pre-tax.

Dollar numbers seem so important in entry level positions, but, at the higher levels, $BIGNUM amounts are used to smooth over the issues that arise in terminations.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953019)

If the paperwork and payment match, then MS probably will have to eat the loss, but as you say, if the paperwork and payment are different, then it's in the ex-employee's best interest to pay back the overage with no fuss.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953059)

So we think that MS is so backwards that a human typed the lettered, or entered data in a form letter. For 1400 employees. We don't think that these letters were generated using, for instance, a datbase query that picked all employees terminated on a certain day, subtracted the hire data to the current date, multiplied by a factor representing the severance pay per time period for the job function, then added any additional severance based on job function. From these calculated values, a letter would be automatically generated. And we don't think that upper management reviewed the severance values before and after they were entered into the database. I am not positive, because I don't use MS products for real work, but I am told they have the technology to do this.

Even if MS were still using stone age technology [tburke.net] you can be sure that all letters were passed by management for final approval.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (2, Insightful)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953175)

The whole reason managers exist is to maintain sanity: if a company reaches the point that it is terminating an employee without the employee's direct manager reviewing the documents involved, it deserves everything it gets.

You can chose to be either an ongoing, profitable business, or a bizarre digital art-form, but if you chose the later, do not be surprised when you lose money in the real world.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953153)

> "Retard typing in the info for the check keys in $20,000 instead of $2,000."

'typing in'..?

No one types check amounts in these days...I'm betting there was a spreadsheet error and we know what software was involved ('Microsoft/ADP Payroll Services'...formally Navision [microsoft.com] ) so MS is hanging from their own petard on this one, sorry.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1)

Herby Sagues (925683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953049)

If the ammount communicated differs from the ammount paid (which is almost always the case in these situations, regarding of the company) then Microsoft has little chances of losing it in court. They also have few chances of having to go to court in the first place, as you wouldn't want to have that in your background when looking for a new job, especially considering that Microsoft is likely the next employer for many of these employees, given that it's the biggest employer in the Seattle area and the two other large companies in the area (Starbucks and Boeing) are looking in worse shape at the time.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953261)

If it's less than $100K, the company will not take it to court. A good lawyer will merely hint that she plans to discover information on overtime, H1Bs, and discretionary bonuses. When the company realizes it has to explain to a jury that one senior developer earns $100K/yr, while another gets $400K, it STFU pretty fast, and eats the few thou it paid by mistake.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1, Insightful)

tkdrg (1484293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953081)

How's that any different than when the government overpays you?

It is different because it's micro$oft, and anything that's done by them is bad. It doesn't matter if other people have done it.

Re:Large, unmarked bills. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953413)

>

How's that any different than when the government overpays you?

Then they just go to your bank account and correct the mistake. Bad luck for you if you have already spent your windfall.

Were the checks paid on Windows 95 OS computer (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952615)

then we understand.

Keep up the good work Balmer and Billy!

Re:Were the checks paid on Windows 95 OS computer (3, Informative)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952751)

Bill doesn't hang around the office much actually nowadays.

So? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952623)

Microsoft follows the same policies that any publicly traded company would. Are we suppose to be shocked? You know, they do have an obligation to the shareholders, don't you?

Why are people so lunkheaded about this?

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952753)

News stories like this will probably lower their share price by a small amount which although tiny compared to the overall share price.. its probably still more than any money they'd get back from the ex-employees.

Why are companies so lunkheaded about this?

Fixed that for you.

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953147)

You know, I sometimes have the feeling that if some megacorporation figured out a way to make a profit torturing puppies to death, people like you would say, "Well, you know, they're just honoring their obligations to the shareholders!"

Well Jeez, let me put my pants down, AGAIN!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952625)

And thanks for the warning this time, MS. The last butt fuck you gave me was a bit of a surprise.

(plod)

Alrighty then (bending over, imagine goat.cx), come and give it to me, Steve!!

I think I am not unique in saying.... (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952631)

I think I am not unique in saying there is NO WAY I would consider paying that back until I get a letter from a lawyer. And THEN I would CONSIDER it. If it were a small company that made a small mistake, I would be more friendly with it. But a large corporation that treats me like a cog, gets treated like a machine in return. Microsoft has over $20 billion in the bank, and they laid of people because they wanted to cut costs. That is fine, it is their right, but it is also my right to not help them. I think it is likely (but I am not a lawyer) that there will be no legal need for these guys to give back the money.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952665)

there is NO WAY I would consider paying that back until I get a letter from a lawyer.

You mean like this one [jonesday.com] ?

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952693)

I'm not a Microsoft employee, but I'm friends with many - and I've intern'd there a number of times.

Microsoft doesn't treat their employee's like "cogs".

As a OSS zealot, I expected to hate my time there - but they really do treat their employees well. Just because they had their first-ever layoff doesn't mean that they treat their employees badly.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952859)

You probably have some things to learn about zealotry. In a case like this, you should jump at the chance to not come to microsofts defense, Anonymous Coward. ...if that even is your real name.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952925)

You'd be surprised how much zealotry you can accomplish at Microsoft :) There's opportunities everywhere!

There's at least one large product with decent Unix support thanks to my efforts (unrelated to my internship, even).

My point was this: Microsoft does evil things, but we all know that. But no one ever said they treated their employee's evilly.

You don't have to be blind to be a zealot. I prefer to think my zealotry is based on reality.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952927)

You probably have some things to learn about zealotry. In a case like this, you should jump at the chance to not come to microsofts defense, Anonymous Coward. ...if that even is your real name.

Zealot is not synonymous with bigot.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952911)

I guess that depends on what you define as well. My flatmate worked for them once, and yeah he got lots of perks like unlimited free food and drink and other stuff, but in his experience he was expected to be at his desk almost permanently, working 18-20 hour days every day. You want the free food, you can eat it at your desk whilst you work. They also hated it if he had any form of life outside of microsoft, although I don't think that was too much of a problem for him :-P

Could just be the office he worked at, but that sure doesn't sound like treating your staff well.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952985)

Isn't that a troll for Google where Microsoft is substituted? Sure, there are free sodas, but you pay for lunch, and there's a strong work-life balance push.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952957)

That is funny, i have friends that will say just the opposite and the place is a 'code mill' where people are expendable at the lower levels.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953181)

Being a cog doesn't mean you are not treated well. I change the oil in my car regularly, and yet it is just a cog in my life, easily replaceable. The reason Microsoft treats its employees well isn't because they actually care about their happiness, it's because it makes better business sense for the employees to be happy. They work harder that way. Cogs in a wheel.

A good company will be one that treats me as a partner, not as a coding machine. Such companies exist, and I've worked for them, even if they are rare (but becoming less so!). Even in manufacturing, companies like that exist. One example is Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation. [srcreman.com] It is an employee owned company. The management doesn't consider itself better than the rest, they work as a team, and they don't have layoffs. They have an open system, where the employees actually understand what management is doing, instead of just being told to do it. If someone is having trouble doing they job, instead of firing them, they get taught how to do better. Maybe they don't have free massages for the workers, but the workers are treated like human beings, who have judgement and capabilities, and they get their fair share.

I suggest reading "The Great Game of Business." Although the book is targeted towards management, it completely changed my idea of what a company can be, and it's not a free xbox.

Stop being such a brown-nosing, lying shill (4, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953377)

Just because they had their first-ever layoff doesn't mean that they treat their employees badly.

It wasn't their first-ever layoff. Just the first that ever made such a huge media splash.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952711)

So you just assume these employees were treated like cogs?

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (2, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952879)

I guess you must have some unique skills, or are a leader in your field, or your resume is so good that it would also open doors and guarantee you a new job without references. Pretty confident for this economic environment, huh?

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953203)

References are people you know who have agreed to do just that, not random people at places you used to work.

Because of the fear of lawsuits, the standard policy at almost every company (and 99.9% of large companies) is that the only question they will answer is "when did ____ work at ____?"

In addition, if this sort of overpayment did bring legal action against the ex-employee, any mention of such a matter to a new prospective employer would really open up the old employer to nasty lawsuits.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (4, Interesting)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953357)

When I quit at Amazon, they actually offered me a legal document (optional, of course) promising them that I wouldn't sue for giving references. If you sign it, they'll allow your manager/coworker to give references, if not they only gave name, rank, and serial number. If you think the references would be good you sign it, if not you don't. I expect to see more companies doing that in the future.

Re:I think I am not unique in saying.... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953299)

I've interviewed dozens of people, and never once did I call someone for a reference. It just didn't seem like it would be important or useful. Other companies might be different, but I'm sure I could get a job without a reference from my most recent employer.

Incidentally, you don't actually need to be at the top of your field, you just need to be able to produce enough to be worth what you want to get paid. If you can do that, then you will have no problem finding a job. Why would anyone want to pay you more than you are worth? Lots of people will be willing to pay you less than you are worth, and some people will be willing to pay you exactly what you are worth.

What if they refuse to pay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952639)

Is this possible?

You gotta love Microsoft (-1, Flamebait)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952683)

They are generally very consistent with their goal of screwing over who ever they need to to increase profits.

Re:You gotta love Microsoft (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953133)

How is this flamebait?

Haha (0)

N4DMX (614024) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952687)

I would take a picture of myself laughing and send that back in reply to be honest.

Re:Haha (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953233)

I would bend over, spread my ass, and take a picture. Of course, last time I did that, the pictures took on a life of their own...

Robin "roblimo" Miller

Why some people think MS is incompetant (2, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952697)

They are unable to write a correct severance package. In my entire career, I have never has an experience like this.

Even though they have tons of cash in the bank, they risk bad publicity to get the overpayment back

Instead of declining comment, they admit the letter is valid, thus proving a general lack of confidence

Re:Why some people think MS is incompetant (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952745)

Instead of declining comment, they admit the letter is valid, thus proving a general lack of competence

Corrected that for you.

Re:Why some people think MS is incompetant (5, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952805)

they risk bad publicity to get the overpayment back

You think MS cares about bad press anymore? In my recent memory... The Zune date bug, the failure of many 360s, DRM schemes in everything, the disaster that was Vista, and the meh responses from the media for any of their new endeavors.

I honestly don't think that MS has any more credibility to ruin.

Re:Why some people think MS is incompetant (2, Informative)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953341)

Sure, Microsoft has next to no credibilty in this crowd. Are we past most people thinking that Windows IS the computer? I don't think so chums.

It may not be as crucial in this economy, but every company has to hire. This is bad press to future prospective employees. And the kind of talented IT professionals that any successful software company must employ are just the type to read this type of press.

They may have a substantial market share, but they've created an environment where customers expect constant updates and scheduled major upgrades. In order to compete they must have the human capital.

Re:Why some people think MS is incompetant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952929)

MS expects the ex-employees to, with their own time and money, drive to the post office, buy a money order in the amount of the overpayment, buy an envelope and postage, put it all together and mail it...

All that to return a bit of extra money that was given to them after losing their jobs?

Seems a bit ridiculous to me.

Re:Why some people think MS is incompetant (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953331)

They are unable to write a correct severance package. In my entire career, I have never has an experience like this.

I have.

Even though they have tons of cash in the bank, they risk bad publicity to get the overpayment back

Why do people keep assuming that corporations have free will? No officer of a publicly held company is in a position to say "oh well, it's only $1 million, we have $50 billion in the bank, no big deal."

junk mail (0)

friedman101 (618627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952735)

IANAL but i'd treat this in exactly the same way i'd treat a letter from walmart saying i underpaid on a dvd. i'd laugh a bit while i crumpled it up and threw it away. not to mention that microsoft has no sway over these people anymore. cut your losses and fire whoever in payroll screwed it up.

Cutting losses (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953429)

cut your losses and fire whoever in payroll screwed it up.

Why do you think the people in payroll screwed it up on purpose? They got to see some of their own names on the list of the soon-to-be walking dead while they were making up the pay.

So they zuned Microsoft back while they still could.

most likely the employees could just keep it (5, Interesting)

thesazi (1245210) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952759)

IANAL but i'd expect the fees related to going after individuals who refuse to give back the money probably costs more than just letting them keep it. they'll probably just write it off and note that ex-employee's name in the HR database as a "do not hire"

Fuck scumalia (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952795)

Somalia is a fucking pirate-dictatorship which is ran by they grand children of facist italy. They fucking claim "Asylum" all around the world then they deal drugs and rape white women. Their "language" Af-Soomali is a bastardized creole based on italian and arabic were they use "X" instead of "H".

Somalia needed to be bombed to smithereens but oh no you voted in the jew cock sucking nigger who wants to deal with the israel instead of finishing the final soloution.

Want world peace? Ban judiasm and nuke somalia.

And Sarah Palin is too busy with "Joes plumbing" to sort it out now.

No way... (1)

Terrorwrist (1376873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952803)

I would never give the money back to Microsoft. They already make billions of dollars, so why even bother? I would give it to Piratebay :)

What if they don't? (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952835)

If one such laid off worker decided to keep the money Microsoft is asking back for, do they have any legal reasons to get this money back? Does he/she actually owe Microsoft this money?

Re:What if they don't? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952947)

No way of knowing without the terms of the severance agreement, the amount that was paid, any representations made at the time of payment, even what the check looked like.

they probably are owed it (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952973)

Generally you do have an obligation to return someone else's property that accidentally came into your possession. You'd be guilty of theft if you knowingly kept it despite knowing that it came into your possession by accident; if you had reason to believe it was legitimately yours, you could plead not guilty to theft, but would probably still have to return it if a court determined it wasn't rightfully yours (i.e. not paid as part of a legitimate contract, or given as a gift). In this case if the employees had signed paperwork specifying a particular amount of money, and they got a larger amount, they would have trouble arguing that they believed it to be anything but an accidental overpayment. I guess you could try arguing that it was a legitimate gift from Microsoft, but I doubt that would succeed.

Re:they probably are owed it (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953037)

That depends on how exactly the severance package was determined and what exactly people signed when they took it.

Re:they probably are owed it (5, Insightful)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953235)

I don't have any strong evidence, but it sounded more to me like their methods for calculating what a person should be paid was just discovered to be faulty. If it really were some sort of entry error into their payment systems it seems like it should be one or two very isolated cases. When combined with that line that "some laid off employees were also undercompensated," it paints a picture for me of a broken formula. The fact that they call it an "administrative error" rather than "accounting error" also points me in that direction.

As such, these people probably agreed to the package that they ultimately received. If Microsoft actually had any right to collect the over-payments, they probably would have said so in the letter to ensure greater initial compliance--even if they ultimately had no intention to go after the money with the lawyers.

Calculated in Excel? (5, Funny)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952857)

I understand completely then. Sometimes I find Excel gives me non-trivial rounding errors too.

Money for nothing (1)

sean_ex_machina (1026748) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952901)

My previous employer overpaid quite a few people a few years back, and the worst that happened to people who didn't offer to return the money was that they had to pay income taxes on it. Although the total amount was about $80k, it was divided among so many employees that taking legal action against any one employee was not worth it.

Had a previous employer overstate wages (2, Interesting)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953195)

And when a large group of us applied for unemployment, we got more than we should have.

After a few months, we all got a letter from the unemployment office wanting the extra money back. Good luck with that, except I still owe them money and the debt never goes away.

If I ever get laid off again, I can't draw a penny until the original amount is paid off out of what I will draw if I end up unemployed again.

When it was all over, the unemployment office sent me a postcard asking what I thought about my experience with them. I sent them a postcard back that was just short of having a federal marshal knock on my door. If I was at home right now, I would post a copy of it. It was a laugh riot.

transporter_ii

Simply put... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952949)

F*ck you. Problem resolved.

Technically they are right (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952951)

But its bad PR and shows lack of morals.

If they screwed up, they need to let it go.

Re:Technically they are right (4, Insightful)

homer_s (799572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952995)

It might be bad PR, but why is it bad morals?

If you accidentally overpay someone, you shouldn't ask for the money? I'd argue that if you know you've been overpaid, keeping the extra money is bad morals.

Re:Technically they are right (2, Interesting)

Shados (741919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953101)

I agree. This happens all the time. Accountants and HR people are just human, and they make mistakes. Sure, the systems are mostly automated, but when there are exceptional events or conditions change (this WAS Microsoft's first massive layoff), mistakes happen, and people pay it back all the time. The same way if they underpay you, they'll give it back.

Now, the only difference is those are people who got fired...so unless there's a legally binding agreement over this package (like, if something was signed...which it probably was), they have no reason to pay back, and they're probably not in the mood to do so. But again, if they signed papers, they don't have much choice.

Also, MS has offered to help some of these people to get new jobs, and even may hire some of them back in the future. Thats typical in IT in general. So unless some of these people REALLY hate Microsoft to the level of an average slashdotter, its not in the former employee's best interests to screw their former employer over. May cause issues getting references too, if t he direct supervisors catch ear of it.

See, this is what happens... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26952959)

When you train the people in payroll to keep clicking "Allow".

Pay it in vouchers (5, Interesting)

carou (88501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26952965)

In the past, Microsoft has settled fines by giving away the fine value in money-off vouchers for schools to buy cheaper copies of Windows (in areas where the schools had tended to use the competition's systems, naturally).

These workers should do the same thing. Print up a few dozen vouchers for $100 off a week's contracting rate.

Mistakes do happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953021)

Well, ya know what Microsoft? I made a mistake using your OS software and would like you to issue me a refund. I've since moved on to Debian, so pay up. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Fuck You Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953039)

You accidentally overpaid me? Too fucking bad. You are not getting it back, I still have not found another job and you expect me to give money back? After I moved across the country for a job? Fuck you.

ask them to send you business reply letters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953055)

so that you don't have to pay for postage, then fill it with pennies, the weight of pennies will end up costing more on postage for them than they get from the pennies. also include a letter stating that you'll need more business reply letters. ;)

Payroll is in North Dakota? (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953073)

The letter asks for repayments to be sent to Fargo, North Dakota. If I got a letter purporting to be from my former company asking me to send money to a totally different state from that where I had worked and that where the company was based, I'd be more than a bit suspicious. This is apparently legit, but I wonder if any employees thought it was a scam (a scam by other than Microsoft, anyway)...

Re:Payroll is in North Dakota? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953307)

Microsoft has a nice facility in Fargo, from when the bought Great Plains Software a number of years ago. Great Plains did accounting software so it makes sense that payroll could be done there.

Blame the gates? (1)

billy901 (1158761) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953091)

You probably can't blame ol' Billy or Stevie for this one. The refund was probably asked for by an accountant who made a mistake when giving out the severance package.

You can have it back when you pry it from my hands (1)

Bushido Hacks (788211) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953139)

To somewhat quote the late Charlton Heston, "Corporate American can have my money back when they can pry it from my cold, dead hands!"

No one was over paid more than Steve Balmer. If you are working for a company started by one of the world's riches men (Bill Gates), you should be paide more than the average salary.

Let's see how we can clone this "innovation" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26953247)

Dear Microsoft,

It has recently come to my attention that I have needlessly paid licensing fees for multiple OEM licenses relating to use your Windows computer operating system (hereafter referred to as "malware").

I have upon many occassions purchased a computer from a vendor who is in the unfortunate position of being a Microsoft partner. Microsoft has continually discouraged its OEM partners from shipping "naked" (sans operating system) PCs. This has led to the situation where I, as both a consumer and business purchaser of laptop, desktop and server class computer hardware, often find it difficult to avoid paying licensing fees relating to your Malware when I order a new system. This is troubling since I neither want to run, nor to purchase a license enabling me to run your malware.

Furthermore, I have suffered financially for many years as a result of your Malware being installed on the majority of desktop computers. Many of my web site customers are infected with a specific bundled component of your malware ("Internet Explorer"). Supporting this doubles the development and maintainance cost of my companies web site.

I ask that you refund my overpayment on unwanted licenses for your malware and make a further payment in respect of losses incurred by my company due to the "Internet Explorer" component of your malware. The net amount you owe to myself is $60,000 payable by check or money order within 14 days.

Thanks,

Anonymous Coward
c/o slashdot.org

Want that overpayments get returned? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953379)

Either by cost, value, or reference, all versions of windows were overpaid by consumers... what about returning those overpayments? Probably that will put around enough cash to end the current world economy problems, as a bonus.

Capitalism is Ugly (0, Flamebait)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26953439)

People wonder why the rest of the world tends to only accept a watered-down version of market economics. This kind of thing answers that: capitalism is ugly. True, excess gov't can also be ugly, but lows are less low. Capitalism has higher highs and lower lows in terms of both income levels and swings for any given individual. It kicks you harder when you are down.
     

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