In a swift reversal, BuzzFeed announced Monday evening that they would in fact pay out unused paid time off and comp days to all their departing U.S. employees. The company, which recently let go 15 percent of its work force — totaling over 200 people — had originally planned to extend the benefit only to California-based employees and only then because they were required by law.
“After meeting with the BF News Staff Council today we have decided to pay our earned and unused PTO and comp days as part of the severance packages for U.S. employees impacted by these layoffs in states where this is not required by law,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti told staff in an evening email. “This change will be covered by an addendum to the separation agreements for those outside of CA.”
Hands were largely tied among management on Monday after more than 350 current and former BuzzFeed staff began circulating a Medium post demanding that the company pay out. With dozens of prominent BuzzFeed personalities tweeting out the link, it swiftly became a national trend.
“BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all U.S. employees who have been laid off. They will only pay out PTO to employees in California, where the law requires it,” the petition read. “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.”
BuzzFeed management had initially resisted handing out the perk to its notably non-unionized staff. In an original response to the petition, the company’s HR chief Lenke Taylor warned of “tradeoffs.” It’s unclear what those were or what form they will take given the company’s change of heart.
A rep for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to request for clarification from TheWrap.
The PTO decision is a small silver lining for journalists and media employees who suffered one of the most brutal round of layoffs in recent memory last week. In addition to BuzzFeed, HuffPost shed at least 20 employees in editorial, with major cuts also coming to Gannett’s papers around the country. CNN estimated that a 1,000 media jobs disappeared last week alone.