February 23, 2009

Microsoft Asks for "Overpaid" Severance Back

Red-Faced Executives
Ask for "Overpaid" Money Back
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"Inadvertent Administrative Error"
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Annoying Paper-Clip Blamed

by HARRIS SCHWED
Financial Rant

REDMOND, Wash. -- Microsoft Corp. said Monday it accidentally paid some of the 1,400 workers it laid off on Jan. 22 too much in severance pay, leading to the company writing its former employees and asking for the money back.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the company told employees that "an inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft. We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you." The former employees have two weeks to come up with the money.

Private company sources have disclosed to the Financial Rant that "Clippy," the annoying paper-clip much reviled and which still lurks within older versions of Microsoft software, was to blame for the mishap. A transcript of how the error took place was revealed on security footage obtained from the firm's human resources department.

HR WORKER: Let's see ... open layoff letters ... here we go. Dear John ...
PAPER CLIP: IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE WRITING A LETTER!
HR WORKER: Yes! NO! Goddammit!
PAPER CLIP: Would you like ....?
HR WORKER: NO! Go away!
PAPER CLIP: Amounts adjusted!
HR WORKER: NO! NO NO NO!
PAPER CLIP: Letters printing!
HR WORKER: I'm going to rip out your pancreas and deep fry it!

Company officials said privately the unnamed HR worker, who was later seen being taken to a local hospital after complaining of chest pain, had been using the older software due to mishaps with Vista's help software, which is advertised as an online chat tool but secretly involves users interfacing with a 9000 series algorithmic computer.

It is unknown whether Microsoft's former workers will actually repay the money. Although not repaying it could lead to theft charges or a civil lawsuit, some observers have pointed out the legal and public-relations costs with pursuing their former workers would outweigh any cost-recovery benefits. Also, although the exact breakdown of the workforce isn't known, some could be software workers -- which could lead to wholly different issues.

"It was a strange layoff, and for more than one reason," said former Microsoft employee Hank Garside. "I got my standard 60 days severance and added pay based on my time of service, but Jack over in programming ended up with half a million dollars. The company checked it out and said everything was all right. I wish I had been in programming."

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