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BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti Relents on PTO Pay for Laid-Off Staffers

BuzzFeed will pay laid-off staffers for their accrued paid time off after all: CEO Jonah Peretti told staff in a company-wide email Monday afternoon that BuzzFeed was going to add changes to its separation agreement to account for PTO time for all U.S.-based staffers affected by the layoffs.

BuzzFeed had announced company-wide layoffs affecting 15% of its workforce last week. Included in the cuts was the BuzzFeed News newsroom, where the company disbanded its entire national news desk and nearly the entire national security team, among other areas affected.

To add insult to injury, BuzzFeed initially didn’t offer staffers who had accrued PTO time to pay out those days. The only exception for this rule was California, where labor laws require companies to pay out accrued PTO time within 24 hours of a layoff.

This led to BuzzFeed staffers to band together in an ad-hoc group that called itself the “BuzzFeed News Staff Council.” The group took to Medium Saturday to demand that the company honor PTO accrual, and pay out laid-off staffers even in states that don’t require this by law.

“This is paid time that employees accrued by choosing not to take vacation days, and instead do their work at BuzzFeed,” the group said in an open letter to the company. “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.”

The letter was signed by more than 500 current and former staffers by Monday.

Peretti initially defended the company’s handling of PTO accruals, saying: “We looked at the total severance consideration and it was fair.” However, he also signaled that he was open to change his mind on the issue, and met with the Staff Council Monday afternoon.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you to the nearly 600 BuzzFeed employees who signed this letter and stood in solidarity,” responded the Staff Council on Medium. “Your support made this happen.”

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