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Why would you fire people on such a short notice? No need to hand over things? No interest in providing at least some time to look for a new job?

EDIT: To clarify that a bit, I am interested in what the upsides are except for possibly saving some money. An orderly shutdown usually seems preferable to me over quickly killing the process, for both sides.

Depends on country too. In EU our work laws regulate how your employee may be laid off. My country (poland) says that employee has to be notified about termination:

- week ahead if he or she was employed for less than month - month ahead if he or she was employed for less than three years - three months ahead if he or she was employed for more than three years

This goes both ways however, as employee has to notify his employeer on same basis that he or she quits. This introduces amount of games to recruitment process, where company frequently not only has to make bet by deciding to hire somebody, but also make sure that they'll wont be outbid during the three months that have to pass for person to change employeer

All that stuff doesn't really matter... If you have 3 months notice, it only means they'll come up to you and offer you to pay you those three months and you don't have to show up at all. And you sign a contract that prevents you from suing.

Most worker rights, in the end, become a matter of how much money they'll pay you to leave if they want you to leave.

Yes, one could--theoretically--fight back and not accept the money, but that only means you'd be a pariah in the company. What's the point of staying if the company wants you to leave and offers you a package? Take the money and get a new job in a couple weeks...

Well, where is the disadvantage here? As far as I can tell, instant layoffs are bad because you without any income at short notice. If you have three months where you still receive pay to search for a new job, you have gained a lot of security.

Besides, I doubt Poland has arbitration clauses, so the workers would be free to sue. It would not be pleasant to stay in that job either way as you correctly pointed out though.

The disadvantage is morale. It's much easier for the company to regain momentum if the chord is cut cleanly and swiftly.

That said, I'm not sure if it's true or effective, but having worked at Stack Overflow for years I'm pretty sure this was done to spare overall misery.

Same in France and the majority of EU countries.

Three months seems like way too long to know you're being laid off but I guess maybe the purpose is that it gives you time to find new work?

In the US, it's just assumed that the ex-employee will be as malicious as possible and so it's best to get rid of them fast as possible.

If the employer is worried for security reasons, they can send the employee home but must pay his salary for 3 months (in France at least, I don't know for other EU countries).

It’s called gardening leave in the UK

The same assumptions are made in the EU, the only difference is that the employee is let go, but still continues to receive his salary for some months.

Think of it more like a severance package and it makes more sense.

This is supposed to protect both the employee and the employer.

The employee to give him some time to find a new job (he is entitled to some days off during these 3 months to interview).

The employer to (at least theoretically) force the employee to still work to prepare a handover, docs, etc.

What happens in practice depends on the case : these 3 months may be shortened via a mutual agreement, the employer may force the employee not to come to work (but still pay him) and other arrangements are possible.

This only applies to permanent workers though. Contractors or temporary staff may be employed on much shorter terms.

I'm a student assistant at SAP in Germany. Even I (as a part time hourly-paid employee) have a one month notice period.

And you have to do it on the first of the month right? Because the one month doesn't become affective until the first of the month so if you quit mid-month then you actually have a month and a half left at the company. At least this is what I was told by a friend who lives and works in Berlin as a tech recruiter.

I’m quite surprised to hear one must give their employer notice. Doesn’t Poland or the EU have laws against forced labor? In the US, for example, all employment by private corporations is “at will.”

Anyone can quit at a moments notice, for any or no reason at all. For the sake of one’s colleagues and reputation it is widely considered good practice to give no less than 2 weeks notice, though this is merely custom.

It's very similar in most EU countries I know.

Responsibilities go both ways.

No one can "force" you to continue working somewhere, of course, but you may lose compensation for extra vacation time and could be liable for financial damage you cause for your employer. But I've never actually heard about that being an issue.

It's very common to just mutually agree to part ways right away.

And of course there are provisions both ways that allow immediate termination, like gross negligence from the employee or the employer not paying out your salary.

It's not "forced labour", it's just a contractual term. You certainly _can_ quit on zero notice but you've breached contract and it will cost you.

If you look closely at US startups you'll usually find the founders and senior staff are on "notice required" contracts of several months.

In the Netherlands (EU example) as en employee:

- You can do it in mutual agreement (see below).

- You can quit directly but you generally forgo any company benefits (like build up bonuses) and you might/most likely not have rights to state-supported unemployment benefits (70% of your last paycheck).

As an employer:

- You can either in mutual agreement (in which case the employee usually also keeps his/her rights since the contract does not end abruptly).

- By court order but this usually requires extensive documentation on malpractice of the employee.

Notice time usually is at least 1 full month in most cases, can be shorter if the employment is not time-fixed or by agreement. All notices are for both employer and employee.

I do not know exactly but if you have build up "vacation days" you usually cannot use those in your last month and forgo those, unless you agree with your employer in some sort of scheme. "Going in sick" will get you reported in which case a investigator will check you out and you most likely will forgo your sickness benefits. (I've had this once already, but not for contract finalization but reporting it really late. The guy was very surprised to see someone actually sick when he checked it out so I guess abuse happens often.)

There are some contract termination clauses (money mostly) in some contracts I've seen but as far as I know they are not enforceable in any way (since that equals servitude by power). Thinks like immediately handing back lease-cars and laptops under force of fine are though.

> If you look closely at US startups you'll usually find the founders and senior staff are on "notice required" contracts of several months.

Yes, but at least California courts have found these "garden leave" provisions in contracts are not enforceable. [1]

As for the rest of the United States, I'm not sure, but it seems like somewhat unsettled law as such notice requirements are quite rare in the US.

1. " And it turns out that companies also cannot require their employees to provide any specific length of notice, even when they offer to compensate them at 100% of their salary and benefits for the duration of the notice period. California courts have found these mandatory provisions to be an unenforceable restraint, as well." https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/understanding-californi...

If you make the breach cost infinitely high, how is that not a modern form of slavery?

It's not infinitely high? In practice the worst it's likely to be is "actual damages" - costs directly incurred by you quitting. http://employeradvice.org.uk/what-to-do-when-staff-quit-with...

Modern slavery is things like confiscating the passports of your immigrant workers so they can't escape.

Because the contract is voluntarily entered and the penalties for breaching it are purely financial.

All Europe operates in a similar way, the difference is only the notice period, which is shorter (few weeks) in some countries like UK or Netherlands, and longer (~3 months+ once you've worked for a while) in other countries like France.

Of course many companies find that it's not flexible enough for them, so they abuse the system and illegally hire low qualified workforce as "independent contractors" on civil contracts instead of work contracts. Search for "zero hour contracts" for UK, but it's rampant also in Poland, Italy and other countries where unions are not strong and employees' rights guaranteed by law are not enforced.

Living in the UK, my last job required three months notice to leave on paper. In reality they accepted a month which is standard enough.

Its because employment laws descend from those governing Masters and servants as does the USA's

A three months notice before quitting seems pretty excessive IMHO. I can kindof understand it from the perspective of the company that would need to find a replacement, but for the worker, it seems ridiculous.

Note: I am American, and most states are aren’t “right-to-work” meaning you can quit at a moment’s notice, but it’s common courtesy to give 2 weeks notice.

> most states are aren’t “right-to-work” meaning you can quit at a moment’s notice, but it’s common courtesy to give 2 weeks notice

The term "right to work" has nothing to do with employment status. It's political branding for laws that forbid mandatory union membership. It's a pretty effective union busting tool and has contributed to the decline of organized labor as a political force.

I think you're confusing it with "at will" employment.


> It's a pretty effective union busting tool and has contributed to the decline of organized labor as a political force.

I think it's fair to say teachers have the right to be teachers without joining a teachers' union. I don't think enforcing that right "contributes to the decline" of unions. Organizational models should be able to handle that sort of freedom to choose.

To me, the question is why unions don't innovate in their organizational models and policies so that giving employees freedom to choose is moot?

Same reason that people who live in the US don't have the freedom to choose whether they want to be governed by the US government. Social contract

But on a more concrete level, union fees go to campaigning, lobbying, and donations to candidates the union members may not support.

I don't think it's part of an American social contract that you would be forced to tangibly support candidates who have (by some accounts) immoral positions on abortion or immigration (to pick to polarizing issues).

For the worker it's actually great. It means that if the company wants to fire you they still need to pay your salary for at least the next three months.

Often times, especially in IT, when people are let go, it's often important for security reasons just to have them stop working immediately, and that worker is still going to get his salary.

When employees quit, it's not 3 months mandated, that's just the limit. You just work out your transition with your employer. Most job changes usually happen within just a few weeks.

Its normal for professional jobs and most eu residents someone only having 2 weeks notice would probably think oh so your a janitor or toilet cleaner

This probably depends a lot on the industry but my mom works at a grocery store and the reason they give short notices (as short as allowed by law) is because of the work moral. In Germany, there is no such thing as sick days, you can take off as long as you need if you are sick and have a doctors notice (which is mostly free or very inexpensive because of public healthcare). Most of the time someone is laid off, this person will suddenly become sick for most of their remaining time. When they come to work, they often procrastinate a lot more and get little to no work done. This means, once they have been given notice, they barely work and the employer can do very little. They cannot get fired (because they already are) and have to keep paying them for that duration. The same also often happens when the employee gives notice.

While the employer can take legal action and sue them, proving that someone is sick is rather difficult (and frowned upon by most judges). There are many cases where my mother's employer could have easily proven that (because witnesses same him partying or there are even pictures online where he partied on that day) but it is generally not worth it because a trail is more expensive then paying one month's pay and also not worth the time and overhead.

Not everyone takes work very seriously, unfortunately, which makes the process suck for everybody. When my mother's boss has an opportunity to fire them eithout notice (because they are late or caught steeling), he generally does that, which is super unfair for the employees who would have worked until their very last.

Likely security. It's not mutually exclusive to helping people with their future prospects.

We know nothing about severance, job assistance, etc. You can't really infer anything about this subject from that tweet.

Maybe the pressure was slowly building up from investors/board. They wanted the returns, profit, path to IPO , VC's carry for the Nth largest site of the internet.

From the https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/stack-overflow, the first round was from 2010 - 7 years ago. USV will like to get their exit soon.

I don't know, I figure that SO's investors made billions via value SO created for their other portfolio company. Investing in SO is like building a well or a power plant.

The transition is being handled with as much dignity as possible - The company is also offering to help place people through USV.

It wasn't possible to give more notice? Do you know why?

I've never heard of a company giving advanced notice of layoffs. Its always just an email the morning of.

Usually you will get at least a 4 week notice in Germany and this increases to up to 7 months when you worked for more than 20 years for the company. That you get fired effective immediately usually only happen if you really fucked something up.

"Layoff" and "firing" are separate concepts here. The central example of a true layoff is a trade work shortage: the layoff happens with very little notice, because it reflects the volatile nature of the demand for the trade. If there's suddenly, unexpectedly nothing for anyone to do, then there's suddenly, unexpectedly no benefit in paying anyone to come in for the day to do it.

Does that kind of situation still confer protections in Germany? If so, how do German manufacturing companies manage to not go bankrupt? Do all the companies subscribe to huge insurance pools?

As far as I know the barriers are even higher for layoffs. You can not, for example, arbitrarily pick which workers to layoff but have to minimize the social impact when you have to choose between several employees doing the same work, for example take age, spousal support, and things like that into consideration. But I am totally not an expert and I am sure it is a vastly more complex topic than I can imagine.

This seems backwards to me. Because my spouse has a better job than Mike's, I'm more likely to get laid off? Because I'm younger than Bill and can theoretically make up the financial impact sooner I'm more likely to get laid off?

If there are ten employees you need to cut, shouldn't they be cut based on either their recent performance, or a completely random method?

If there are ten employees you need to cut, shouldn't they be cut based on either their recent performance

No, because layoffs are position-based. If it's a performance related cull then that's not the same as redundancies. If you want to get rid of people like that then you need ironclad documentation and/or to provide generous packages.

In a hard time it tries to do the thing with the less overall impact.

Maybe it's putting lipstick on a pig, maybe it's fairness.

Layoffs (mass dismissal) are very hard, because usually it means the whole region has economic problems, and those that get laid off are especially vulnerable - because they almost by definition work in a sort of dying industry/trade.

Welcome to the world of progressive taxation. The more secure you are, the more you pay.

.. but there isn't suddenly, unexpectly, no need for the employees to pay their rent, mortgages and bills.

When I was made redundant a decade ago in the UK I got:

- week's "consultation period" during which the ranking process for who would be made redundant was explained

- pay in lieu of month's notice

- (optional on behalf of the employer) three month's pay for signing away my right to sue for wrongful dismissal

The only situation in which employees can really lose out is if the company goes bankrupt in which case they are at risk of losing their last paycheque.

Traditionally, large scale layoffs are hard and avoided, especially in industries where unions are strong. If required they are usually negotiated with the union. Still, there are often ways to avoid a layoff. The union sometimes agrees on a temporary pay cut across the board. There are some legal instruments that help a company in a crisis, Kurzarbeit is one of the most german one: The company can under some circumstances cut work time (and salaries) for a specified group of employees and the state will cover for a certain percentage of the wage loss. This allows the company to retain staff in an unexpected slow in business and be ready and fully staffed when orders start rolling in. In effect a giant insurance pool.

The US has much weaker employee protections. Aside from workers in unions and certain protected scenarios, layoffs usually occur with zero notice. (And, often, when associated with public bad financial returns, shortly after management denies any layoffs are coming.)

The WARN act is part of US labor law. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worker_Adjustment_and_Retraini...

For larger companies with layoffs beyond a threshold, they employer must give 60 days notice. I think they can instead give 60 days severance.

Yeah, but the threshold is quite large; 500+ workers at a single site, or both 50-499 workers and over a third of the site workforce.

The Stack Overflow layoffs are 60 people and 20% of their workforce, and so wouldn't (even at a single site) be subject to the WARN Act’s 60-day notice requirement.

True it could be stronger. Some states like California have more stringent versions.

These layoffs weren't in Germany, so I'm not sure that German law is relevant.


> Per Chapter 4, Part 4, Sections 1400-1408 of the Labor Code, WARN protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring that employers give a 60-day notice to the affected employees and both state and local representatives prior to a plant closing or mass layoff. Advance

The layoff that I was part of in '09 in California (Netapp, ~500 employees let go, about 6% of staff) had two different groups in the IT side of the house:

A. Out the door now. B. Pick your brain for some time.

The out the door now were let go immediately, though they were on payroll for 60 days. They weren't allowed in the building, but they were technically still employees. Severance package followed the 60 days.

The pick your brain group which I was part of were still allowed in and we worked. We had 30 days to sign a "increase pay and pick brain from Feb until July" or out the door with 30 days left on the WARN (if I remember it correctly). Come July, the 60 day window kicked in and then the severance package.

I am of the understanding that this approach isn't unusual with tech companies.

Interesting. Company I used to work for reduced their LA office to a handful of people after laying off 2/3 of its workers to move operations to Vancouver. Everyone was considered 'contract' despite being on W2s so not sure. I think we did get a notice but not months to look for new work. I had a week.

Companies benefit from terminating with zero notice, and subsequently providing money and services to facilitate the employees transitions.

Labor seeks regulations that makes it difficult to be suddenly terminated. The primary downside is that companies are reluctant to hire employees.

I'm OK being "instantly" terminated as long as you pay me for the duration of the notice period.

I agree with you, but many people do not share our view.

The general counter argument is that if you make it difficult for companies to terminate employees, then companies will search for alternate mechanisms to sustain profitability. For example, instead of terminating an employee, the company might reduce executive pay, or pass the increased expenses on to customers.

Again, I agree with you.

> instead of terminating an employee, the company might reduce executive pay,

Well that won't happen.

Apart from a few cases where executives agree to take all their compensation in equity to rescue a failing business, they tend to pay themselves first, sometimes at the cost of the long term health of the business. Philip Green / BHS is the example that comes to mind.

To be fair, your example is not a counterpoint because the company also collapsed.

I think you’d have to show examples where a company:

  1. Was not allowed to fire employees,
  2. Executives did not take a pay cut,
  3. The company continued to do well.


> it had found that “the main purpose of the sale of BHS was to postpone BHS’s insolvency to prevent a liability to the schemes falling due while it was part of the Taveta group of companies ultimately owned by the Green family, and/or that the effect of the sale was materially detrimental to the schemes.”

IE, Green underfunded the pension scheme in order to pay himself several hundred million pounds, and then sold the company off to escape liability for it. He "voluntarily" paid back £363 million in order to end an investigation that might have resulted in him being jailed.

No need to hand over things?

Correct. Remember ROLES are made redundant, not people. If the role no longer exists then by definition there's nothing to handover.

If there is a handover then there better also be a big chunk of cash to the departing worker in return for waiving the right to sue, because if there isn't, it's tribunal time.

That's a very simplistic view of the way work is distributed in a small company .

That would be for a tribunal to decide. But at the point that your employment is terminated, why would you do it?

Let's say that the law requires a 90 day notice. Maybe you can fire them today--as long as you pay them for 90 days while they sit at home. The spirit of the law is that you have sometime to look for another job so it's all covered.

My point is that we don't know the details, a tweet is way too short.

Why would you give notice? Leaving people dangling for weeks while you figure out who will be cut is worse than making the decision, telling them it's effective immediately and giving a fair severance package so they can immediately start looking.

The idea is to give notice after you figure out who will actually be cut, so that you can have an orderly handover of responsibility and knowledge.

That's how it's done in sane countries because notice periods are proscribed by law. And no, it does not lead to people vandalizing their workplace.

You're conflating notice and severance. It might be desirable to give enough notice so people can do more work, but it might not. I actually think it's more dignified to let people off the hook immediately. When you lay them off/fire them, you've typically failed in some way as a company, and expecting people to fulfill some responsibility knowing their time's up is pretty harsh.

In "sane countries" you can have people stop working immediately as long as you pay them. That's really all the notice period is for, it has nothing to do with continued responsibilities.

Tech company severance packages are usually pretty ok, I would bet stack overflow is giving packages that would be just fine in other countries.

The question isn't so much notice as it is severance. As long as the severance package is good, notice isn't that important.

You decide who needs to get cut and notify only those people. Then they have a few weeks to search for a new job and get their things in order.

Yes, but you forget "water cooler talk". Having worked at a large hedge fund that went through a massive layoff after a sub par year (we still made 10%) that resulted in 2/3s of all IT employees, roughly 600 people, being terminated. The announcement was made over email. First, all consultants/contractors were immediately shown the door. Those we wanted to keep were converted to salaried employees. This was the week before Thanksgiving in the US. Volunteers to be laid off from employees were asked for the Monday before Thanksgiving. Long of it was morale tanked. I informally asked my director to be let go and was told not to formally ask for it as they weren't going to cut me and it wouldn't look good in my official record. I saw a lot of friends and great developers walked out the door. The layoff was bad enough in of itself, but watching it dragged out over a few weeks was brutal.

The short notice is if the work is going away. It's an independent decision from how well they'll treat people going away. My most recent fund was similar - once they decided someone should go, they preferred to pull the trigger very quickly even if the severance was generous. (There's a toll on the org for having people stick around with negative attitude)

It's start up life, iterating off VC money. Fail fast also means fire fast.

Is it even possible to call Stack Exchange a startup anymore?

It definitely is, they dont have a solid monetization plan, consistently pivot/iterate product ideas and take quite a bit of VC money. It's something that has gone from MVP and is trying to transform into a real business.

Sometimes you just Robin Hood your VCs to build something wonderful to give to the world.

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