BuzzFeed has been in the news lately for their shoddy reporting about the Russia probe. It wasn't long after after that the news company faced massive layoffs, along with the Huffington Post. Current and laid off employees are upset with the company's paid time off (PTO) policy. Apparently those who are being laid off won't be able to cash in their banked PTO.
More than 400 employees signed a petition demanding BuzzFeed pay out the PTO employees accrued:
To Jonah Peretti, Lenke Taylor, and Ben Smith:
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. 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.
The BuzzFeed News Staff Council, alongside current and laid-off BuzzFeed employees:
At the time of this writing the letter has 414 signatures from current and former BuzzFeed employees.
Apparently Lenke Taylor, the Chief People Officer, sent out an internal memo about the policy, essentially defending their decision:
BuzzFeed management responded internally tonight to the Medium open letter signed by 350 employees demanding that the company pay out earned time off: “We are open to re-evaluating this decision...” pic.twitter.com/llci0v08Bi— Jeremy Barr (@jeremymbarr) January 28, 2019
Many of BuzzFeed's current and former employees took to Twitter to discuss the situation:
If I hadn’t moved out of CA, I would be entitled to the SIX WEEKS of PTO I never used. And it’s not just about me — it’s about all of us who are now being punished for not taking more vacations. Here is a letter I signed along with 347 of my colleagues. https://t.co/mfGBoEbRQo— Louis Peitzman (@LouisPeitzman) January 27, 2019
The most insidious thing about this = most of the laid off BuzzFeed employees have weeks & weeks of PTO, largely because reporters in general (and younger, digital ones in particular) internalize that to take vacation is to abscond on your duty https://t.co/kaWHkZBqVz— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) January 28, 2019
I'm sorry that it all leads back to burnout culture but few things are more burnout culture than not taking PTO so you can work all the time only to be laid off by your company and denied that PTO— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) January 28, 2019
Not for nothing, but the company stripping away our accruing PTO is literally how the L.A. Times got a union.— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) January 28, 2019
(and if they try to convert you to “unlimited” “flex” time, fight like hell — it’s how they can get around California law on paying out unused PTO)— Matt Pearce ?? (@mattdpearce) January 28, 2019
A layoff tweet: I have 16+ unused PTO days. If I lived in California, I would be paid for them. But I live in New York. So 347 of my colleagues signed a letter asking BuzzFeed to change its policy https://t.co/Xf8VefHqRB— jessica testa (@jtes) January 27, 2019
A broader lesson: Take more vacations!— jessica testa (@jtes) January 27, 2019
The reason so many of my @BuzzFeed and @BuzzFeedNews colleagues who were just laid off have WEEKS of PTO saved up is because they worked long hours and extra days when breaking news demanded it.— Ellie Hall (@ellievhall) January 27, 2019
BF management should not punish them for their dedication. https://t.co/bnW5Z2PY4i pic.twitter.com/SeQKz3k0uG
Word to the wise: use your paid time off because you have no idea if it'll (forever) be there.