Microsoft wants refund from some laid-off workers

Software giant sends a letter to some of the 1,400 employees it laid off last month letting them know they were overcompensated and that it would like the money back.

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Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Editor's note: Since this story was published, Microsoft has reversed its decision. You can read an updated story on its decision here.

Microsoft says it made an accounting error when it laid off some employees last month and now feels the best way to correct the error is with what will likely add up to a public relations blunder.

The software giant, which recently laid off 1,400 employees, sent letters (see image below) this week to some of those former workers letting them know that their severance payouts were a bit too "generous" and respectfully requested that the former employees pay back that money, according to a report Saturday on TechCrunch.

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"An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft," the letter states. "We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you."

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter posted by TechCrunch but declined further comment, saying it was "a private matter between the company and the affected people."

The company declined to specify how many of these letters were sent out, and it's unknown how much the overpayments total, but it did indicate that some laid-off employees were also undercompensated.

The letter failed to provide an explanation for the accounting error but did manage to add--with underlined emphasis--a veiled threat of monetary punishment if the money wasn't repaid, at least in the form of a tax impact.

A scanned copy of the letter Microsoft reportedly sent to some former employees. TechCrunch