BuzzFeed Staffers Demand Company Pay Out Paid Time Off to Laid Off Employees

“BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all U.S. employees who have been laid off,” an online petition reads

Last Updated: January 28, 2019 @ 6:17 AM

Current and former BuzzFeed employees are demanding the company compensate recently laid off staffers for their full, unused paid time off.

In a weekend Medium post, the BuzzFeed News Staff Council — an internal organization designed to raise employee concerns with management — said the issue for departing workers could be the “difference between whether or not bills and student loans will be paid on time and how their families are supported.”

“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 — signed by more than 350 BuzzFeed employees — 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,” it added.

The letter was addressed to BuzzFeed co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti, editor-in-chief Ben Smith and the company’s HR chief, Lenke Taylor

Many of the laid off BuzzFeed employees had accrued days or even weeks of unpaid vacation time. As the letter noted, only BuzzFeed staff in California are currently slated to received their unpaid days — and only because state law is forcing the company’s hand. The Medium post was shared by dozens if not hundreds of BuzzFeeders across Twitter on Sunday, causing the issue to take over the platform.

In a message to petition organizers obtained by TheWrap, Taylor said the company was open to discussing the matter further.

“We would like to have a dialogue with the news staff council and staff from other departments on PTO payout. We are open to re-evaluating this decision but we think it is important for everyone to understand the tradeoffs in changing the PTO practice, how we came to the decision to offer everyone a minimum of 10 weeks salary, and the ways we’ve adjusted our severance to be fair and competitive in every state where we operate. We will follow up soon with next steps so a representative group of employees from across the company can meet with Jonah and me about this. You’ll hear from us by the end of the day Monday on scheduling next steps.”

Last week capped one of the most brutal in the media industry in recent memory, with BuzzFeed beginning a process that will ultimately end with the termination of 15 percent of their staff — or roughly 215 people. Similar gutting also took place at HuffPost and Gannett. All told, roughly a 1,000 media industry jobs were eliminated, according to a count from CNN.