Googlers demand more ‘humane’ layoffs; Amazon and Disney set to axe even more staff

As Google, Amazon and Disney are all poised to axe more staff, Google employees demand to be laid off more compassionately:

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Mar 24, 2023
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Staff tell Google boss to do layoffs more humanely…

In an open letter to Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, 1,400 ‘Googlers’ have demanded that all layoffs be handled more compassionately, with demands including freezing new hiring, seeking voluntary redundancies before compulsory ones, giving priority to laid off workers for job vacancies and letting workers finish scheduled periods of paid time off, such as parental and bereavement leave. Other demands include protecting co-workers in countries with “active or humanitarian crises – such as Ukraine/Russia,” and not terminating people’s employment “when it would adversely affect visas, which could require workers to return to unsafe or unstable countries.” In an interesting reaction to so-called ‘Zoom-firings’, the letter also requests that workers be told about any job losses “in-person” and “will be given the opportunity to say good-bye to their co-workers.” Said the letter: “Our company has long touted its commitment to doing right by its users and workers, and these commitments will show Alphabet adhering to the final line of its Code of Conduct: Don’t Be Evil.” The letter follows an earlier announcement by Google that it was cutting 6% of its staff.

… As Amazon plans to lay off another 9,000 staff – including those in HR

Despite being one of the biggest beneficiaries of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon’s boss, Andy Jassy, has announced that a further 9,000 staff will go in the coming weeks. This is on top of the 18,000 that were let go between last November to January 2023. The official reason – in a memo sent to staff – was to “streamline costs” and to safeguard the company against “uncertainty that exists in the near future.” But that’s not cutting it with investors, and the job cuts news left Amazon’s share price down 1% on the day of the announcement. Those impacted this time round are reported to be those in its cloud computing division, advertising and in its Twitch livestreaming business. But it is also being reported cuts will be made to HR teams too. Some argue Amazon hired too quickly during the pandemic. The company’s global workforce swelled to more than 1.6 million by the end of 2021 – up from 798,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019. In his memo, Jassy said: “We will, of course, support those we have to let go, and will provide packages that include a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, and external job placement support.”

New job posting laws creating ‘rifts’ between staff and bosses…

Newly-introduced laws that require some firms to advertise salaries in job ads mean things are now ‘starting to get messy for employers’ according to a report by Yahoo! Finance. It reports staff are noticing differences in pay, and wanting to be compensated accordingly, quoting research by the Society for Human Resource Management that finds the law change is now causing more current employees to ask about receiving a pay rise. It finds 36% of organizations polled said the new pay transparency legislation had caused a rise in staff asking for more money. Commenting on the data, Robin Erickson, vice president of human capital at The Conference Board said: “Rising inflation and labor shortages have required organizations to increase starting salaries to remain competitive. However, many employees who find out that newly-hired peers earn more are quick to look for new jobs themselves, creating a vicious cycle of high turnover and unfilled positions.” Nearly one in five organizations (19%) are now posting salary ranges without having confidence in how current employees will react, according to Payscale’s recent Compensation Best Practices Report. And less than half (49%) of organizations train managers on pay communication.

…as data shows pay transparency is spreading

New research suggests that adding pay transparency information is spreading – to states where it isn’t even required by law to do it. According to Indeed, the number of US job postings that included salary information more than doubled between February 2020 and February 2023 (from 18.4% to 43.7%). This includes in places such as New Jersey (which doesn’t have a requirement by law to display pay rates), as well as elsewhere. Experts suggest that employers are being forced into this due to a tight labour market, and a desire to stay competitive. Companies including Microsoft, Citigroup, and Google have already said they will post salary ranges for all jobs across the country, rather than only in the states where it’s legally required. “Companies that are not necessarily in locations that now have laws are disclosing information anyway,” said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at job site Monster. “It’s becoming more the norm because job-seekers are expecting it.”

Disney could be axing 4,000 more staff

It announced 7,000 employees would be going in February, but new reports suggest that the House of Mouse hasn’t quite finished yet, with at least 4,000 additional jobs up for the chop in April. The speculation comes from Business Insider – which reveals managers have been asked compile a list of staff that can be laid off in the coming weeks. February’s cuts were part of Disney’s ambitions to deliver around $3 billion in savings over the next few years – by cutting content (including that aimed at adults), and through restructuring. It is also reportedly considering it options for streaming service, Hulu. This service is currently two-thirds owned by Disney and one-third owned by Comcast Corp. What isn’t yet known is whether these new headcount reductions will be phased in gradually, or whether they’ll be made all at once. Disney CEO, Bob Iger, says he wants to have three core business segments: Disney Entertainment, ESPN and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Remote workers feel more anxious about layoffs

The curse of so-called proximity bias – where those physically in the office get noticed more than those who work from home – is starting to show, according to new research. Data published in the Harvard Business Review finds that anxiety about being laid off was far greater amongst those that work remotely compared to those who come to the office – 32% more, to be precise. Some 67% then said this anxiety impacting their productivity. By comparison, those who went to the office at least some of the time – either in a hybrid way, or fully in-person – were 24% less likely to say that uncertainty has impacted their productivity over the past six months. According to HBR though, the answer is ‘not to force people back to the office, because half (50%) of staff say remote working is still a priority for them. “Managers should look to build bridges with other teams in their organization,” it concluded. It said: “Try to create opportunities for remote employees to work on cross-functional projects, or connect your team members to people from another department for informal chats.”

California launches bill to ban caste discrimination

A Californian lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make caste-based discrimination (one of the oldest surviving forms of social discrimination) illegal. The bill has been introduced by Democrat Senator, Aisha Wahab, who says she wants to add caste as a protected category in California’s anti-discrimination laws alongside gender, race and disability. The tech industry – which has a disproportionately high number of Asian employees – is a sector that has recently been grappling with caste discrimination in recent years. In 2020, California regulators sued Cisco Systems on the basis of a complaint that a Dalit (‘untouchable’) Indian engineer faced caste discrimination at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Last year, California State University, the largest public university system in the US, approved a policy change which added caste as a protected category. In the same year, Apple announced it had already updated its employee policy to prohibit caste discrimination. In 2021, the California Democratic Party added caste as a protected category to its code of conduct.


This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.