HR Management & Compliance

BuzzFeed Responds to PTO Backlash from Laid-Off Employees

In a tight labor market, we see many examples of companies going the extra mile to entice new employees to join their ranks and to keep their existing employees happy. But what about former employees? It turns out some companies are finding out the hard way they need to keep them happy as well.


Source: Gazometr / iStock / Getty

What’s the Buzz?

CNN Business recently reported, “BuzzFeed will pay recently laid off employees for the paid time off they had earned but not used … reversing course after hundreds of current and former staffers signed an open letter demanding that it do so.”
The issue first arose when BuzzFeed announced in mid-January that it would be laying off 15% of its workforce. BuzzFeed had said that eligible employees impacted by the layoffs would be eligible for severance packages, including between 10 and 16 weeks of pay, depending on factors such as seniority.
“But [BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah] Peretti had faced enormous backlash [days later] from employees who were furious about the company’s decision not to pay laid off staffers for earned paid time off unless those staffers lived in states that forced the company to do so,” says CNN Business.

Employees Prevail

In response to an open letter to BuzzFeed leadership, hundreds of current and former BuzzFeed employees complained about the PTO issue in which Peretti responded via Twitter that he felt the overall severance packages for laid-off employees were fair and that it is common for companies based in New York City to not compensate laid-off employees for their accrued PTO.
Nevertheless, Peretti also said he had agreed to meet with employees to discuss the policy and said he was willing to reevaluate his decision.
Even when backlash comes from former or soon-to-be-former employees, companies need to pay close attention and respond appropriately. In the case of BuzzFeed, the anger of laid-off employees sparked national media attention that could paint the company in a negative light among potential future job applicants. That’s a place companies never want to be, but it’s particularly so in this tight labor market.