Microsoft Backtracks on Overpaid Severance

As we wrote previously, Microsoft over --- and underpaid --- a number of the 1,400 workers it recently laid-off. After a wave of criticism which occurred after Microsoft asked for the, ahem, overpayment back, Microsoft caved in.

Microsoft human resources chief Lisa Brummel said the company had changed course. Twenty-five workers were overpaid and about twenty underpaid, Microsoft said.

"I thought it didn't make sense for us to continue on the path we were on. I have called now 22 out of the 25 impacted employees, only because I haven't had time to get to the three, but I will after we hang up."
On average, those overpaid received about $4,000 or $5,000 in extra pay. Nothing, obviously, that would kill Microsoft.

According to a lawyer that Computerworld spoke to, those employees may not have been required to pay that money back, anyway, noting it was "bad PR," as well.

Well, duh.

According to D. Jill Pugh, a Seattle attorney, it was unclear if Microsoft could force the laid-off workers to return part of the severance. Pugh said the following:
"The law is not crystal clear," she said. "It may depend on whether or not it was obvious to [the former employees] that there was an error. A lot of the people laid off were salaried employees, who often don't know exactly what they make in a week minus taxes. But severance is usually termed as a number of weeks, such as 12 weeks or eight weeks. If they thought they were going to get, say, $5,000 in severance but actually got $20,000, that's obvious.

"If it was one of my clients, I'd contact the attorneys at Microsoft and negotiate. If it was a smallish amount, under $2,000 or so, I'd argue that it was Microsoft's error. After all, the [former] employee has had to sign away considerable rights when they signed the severance agreement."
It's good to see that Microsoft decided to take the high road. After all, they're already taking hits from many sides on H1B visas. Did Microsoft seriously want to pursue it further?