×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BuzzFeed CEO Defends Decision to Not Pay Most Laid-Off Employees for Accrued Time-Off Days

BuzzFeed chief exec Jonah Peretti is being criticized by current and former employees over the company’s decision to not pay laid-off staffers (except for those in California) for their paid time-off days, in the wake of BuzzFeed slashing 15% of its workforce.

In an open letter posted Saturday on Medium addressed to BuzzFeed’s senior managers, a group identifying itself as the “BuzzFeed News Staff Council” demanded that the company pay pink-slipped employees the full value of their accrued vacation days and other time-off allowances. The letter now has been signed by more than 500 people.

BuzzFeed is including paid time-off as part of severance for employees based in California — where that step is required by law — but for those in other states it has not. Peretti has agreed to meet with the members of the staff who raised the objection and has “indicated I’m willing to re-evaluate,” he wrote in a tweet Monday.

However, Peretti also defended BuzzFeed’s decision to not compensate terminated employees for their accrued PTO where it isn’t required by law.

“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 wrote. He added, “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.”

BuzzFeed’s workforce is not unionized, and Peretti in the past has said that he doesn’t think unionization “is right” for the company.

In his tweets Monday, Peretti was responding to the hosts of BuzzFeed’s own “AM to DM” morning talk show on Twitter, Saeed Jones and Isaac Fitzgerald, who discussed the layoffs and the controversy over the paid time-off decision on Monday’s show.

BuzzFeed announced on Jan. 23 that it would lay off 15% of its workforce across the company, with Peretti citing a need to boost profitability in an internal memo. On Friday, BuzzFeed News cut its entire national news desk and nearly the entire national security team, among others who lost their jobs.

BuzzFeed’s head of HR, Lenke Taylor, in a response to the letter staffers posted on Medium, noted that the company is giving all laid-off employees severance packages of a minimum 10 weeks pay. BuzzFeed also is extending their benefits through April.

“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,” Taylor wrote in the response. BuzzFeed is promising to provide updated details on next steps about scheduling a meeting.

Read the full text of the letter from the BuzzFeed News Staff Council, addressed to Peretti, Taylor, and BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief 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.

More Digital

  • Reddit

    Reddit Rolls Out Collections and Events Posts to All Communities (EXCLUSIVE)

    After testing them with “Game of Thrones” fans and a few dozen other Subreddits for the past couple of months, Reddit is now launching two new post types to its entire user base: Events will help communities with discussions about TV show episodes, awards shows, breaking news and more; Collections will help to curate posts, [...]

  • silicon valleywood Wanda Sykes

    Silicon Valleywood Confab Will Mine Maximum Data Strategies

    As Apple’s recent star-studded event for its new TV streaming service demonstrated, the worlds of entertainment and technology are becoming increasingly intertwined — a convergence Variety will explore during its inaugural Silicon Valleywood Summit on April 23 in Menlo Park. Entertainment leaders will join tech giants on the latter industry’s home turf to discuss how [...]

  • Woman lying on a sofa holding

    The Streaming Wars' Other Battlefront: User Experience as Important as Content, Survey Finds

    Content is king — but the queen for direct-to-consumer streaming services is overall user experience, according to a new study. It’s well understood that the price/value ratio for subscription VOD hinges on access to content, including exclusive originals and popular library titles. But just as important is an SVOD offering’s ease-of-use and other consumer-friendly features, [...]

  • Mission Impossible 2

    APOS: Paramount+ Streaming Service to Expand to Brazil, Latin America

    The Paramount+ subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service is to begin operations in Latin America and Brazil from next month. The moves are made possible by deals with Claro Video and with Brazil’s NET. The South America expansion in in addition to the platform’s existing presence in the Nordic region and Central and Eastern Europe. The deal [...]

  • A Man Walks Into the Cnn

    CNN Launches Channel on Pluto TV Free Streaming Service

    CNN programming is coming to Pluto TV, Viacom’s free streaming TV service, on a dedicated channel launching for users in the U.S. Tuesday. To be clear, however, it’s not CNN’s live broadcast feed — that’s available only to pay-TV customers on traditional cable or satellite services, and via authenticated access on the web and mobile [...]

  • YouTube TV

    Verizon Will Resell YouTube TV to Wireless, Broadband Customers Across U.S.

    Verizon has turned to Google for over-the-top TV: The telco will market and resell YouTube TV to wireless and Fios broadband customers nationwide — leading with 5G early adopters — under a pact with the internet giant. The companies didn’t announce YouTube TV pricing, availability or other details; a Verizon rep said only that the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content