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Laid Off BuzzFeed Employees Demand Company Pays Earned Time Off

BuzzFeed Newsroom
Drew AngererGetty Images
CHARLIE NASH

Recently laid-off BuzzFeed employees, along with those still at the company, are demanding that the company pay them earned Paid Time Off (PTO), after it was alleged that only employees in California were being paid out for the benefits they had earned when laid off.

In a Medium post titled, “We demand BuzzFeed pay out earned paid time off to its recently laid-off employees,” over 460 current and former BuzzFeed employees, including editors, bureau chiefs, and managers expressed their frustrations with the company.

At least 15 percent of jobs at BuzzFeed were cut last week, prompting many journalists to blame the Google and Facebook duopoly.

“We are the BuzzFeed News Staff Council, a group of employees appointed to open up the lines of communication between News employees and company management. We have urgent concerns about the sweeping layoffs hitting the whole company — not just News,” proclaimed the post. “This letter is cosigned by current and laid-off staffers from across BuzzFeed who strongly share this concern.”

Every aspect of the way that these layoffs have been handled so far — from communication to execution to aftermath — has been deeply upsetting and disturbing, and it will take a long time to repair the damage that has been done to our trust in this company. But there’s one thing you can do right now to help the employees who are losing their jobs.

BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all US employees who have been laid off. They will only pay out PTO to employees in California, where the law requires it. We understand that in other states where BuzzFeed employees have been laid off, state law does not require you to do so. But employers absolutely can pay out PTO — and often do. It is a choice, and for a company that has always prided itself on treating its employees well, we unequivocally believe it is the only justifiable choice.

This is paid time that employees accrued by choosing not to take vacation days, and instead do their work at BuzzFeed. Many of the employees who have been laid off had the most difficult jobs in terms of scheduling — such as the breaking and curation teams on BuzzFeed News who regularly worked weekends and holidays, or managers who weren’t able to use vacation time because they were expected to be available to their teams. They saved up those days (or weeks) because they were so dedicated to their work, and, in some cases, felt actively discouraged from taking time off. They have as much of a right to those days as anyone else.

For many people, paying out PTO will be the difference between whether or not bills and student loans will be paid on time and how their families are supported. It is unconscionable that BuzzFeed could justify doing so for some employees and not others in order to serve the company’s bottom line.

We, the undersigned, stand together in demanding that BuzzFeed pay out earned PTO to all laid-off employees, regardless of the state they live in, to eliminate this disparity. It is the only just way to proceed — especially as this round of layoffs has been so damaging to your workforce as a whole — to pay your employees for the time they earned while working so hard to make BuzzFeed a successful company.

Among the 463 current and former employees who signed the post were BuzzFeed’s bureau chiefs for Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Mexico.

Current and former employees also rallied on Twitter.

“As a manager at BuzzFeed, I sincerely hope the company pays out PTO to all the people who have earned it, not just those in California,” declared BuzzFeed’s San Francisco bureau chief Mat Honan. “There is a reason this is protected by the law here in CA. It’s the right thing to do.”

“My colleagues — my friends — earned their PTO driving into hurricanes, risking their physical safety to cover protests, working through weekends to report on injustices,” posted BuzzFeed’s Tech and Business Editor, John Paczkowski. “They earned it making us laugh, telling stories that need to be told. Pay them.”

Author Jack Murphy, however, claimed the employees were intentionally leaving out details of their severance.

In a series of Twitter posts, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti responded to employee demands, claiming company severance packages were “fair.”

“I’ve already agreed to meet with the staff council to discuss and indicated I’m willing to re-evaluate. I get that people might want a different policy but for NYC based companies this is very common and we looked at the total severance consideration and it was fair,” Peretti proclaimed. “I can’t really have this discussion in public, can’t share all relevant information on twitter, but I look forward to being very open-minded and transparent with the staff council in our upcoming meeting.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington, or like his page at Facebook.

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