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“I thought I’d be clear in this layoff”

Earlier this week, a technical recruiter at Meta ( META ) thought layoffs wouldn’t affect her, she told Yahoo Finance. She performed well on the job, always meeting or exceeding expectations at a company that had prioritized attracting engineering talent for years. She was also in her third trimester of pregnancy.

“Until yesterday, I thought I would be clear in this layoff,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I didn’t think these layoffs would be on the scale that they are, or that I would be affected.”

But at 8:45 a.m. ET, she says, she was locked out of her computer, with access only to her work email.

“I tried to look at the benefits,”[ads1]; the recruiter said. “I typed it in the search field and it wouldn’t let me in, saying I needed internal access.”

Yahoo Finance spoke with three Meta employees who lost their jobs this week, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity over concerns that coming forward could affect their future prospects or benefits. They all presented documentation of employment with the company.

Two common threads emerged from all three of them. At first, they all said management had spent the last few months saying layoffs were not on the table. Second, they described a work environment that had changed radically in recent days, especially after The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that layoffs were imminent.

“Meta was kind of a dream company for me to work for,” the recruiter said. “I really wanted to put my full faith in them, but after seeing the scale of these layoffs and how they handled them, I don’t have a lot of faith in this company for the future.”

“I thought I’d be clear in this layoff”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – OCTOBER 01: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook/Meta, is seen in attendance during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 1, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Meta is not the first technology company to have a mass layoff in recent days. Twitter began layoffs last week that affected 3,700 employees — about 50% of the company now owned by billionaire Elon Musk — and they thundered across social media. Still, the Meta layoffs represent something new for the Facebook parent, as it’s the company’s first-ever major job cuts in its nearly 19-year history. Twitter, meanwhile, has made layoffs before, such as in 2015, under then-CEO Jack Dorsey.

“Paranoia and Anxiety”

A product marketing manager, who joined the company less than a year ago, said working at Meta was usually “confusing and convoluted,” but that something has changed in recent days. Deep nervousness had set in for him and his associates, he told Yahoo Finance.

“The last two days have been paranoia and anxiety for every single person who works at the company,” he said Wednesday. “We all thought, well, some of us aren’t going to be here by Thursday, so work stopped – there’s no work going on at Meta this week at all.”

The layoffs hit recruiting particularly hard, but the cuts came in divisions across the company — including in the company’s metaverse operation, Reality Labs, all three confirmed.

Before the layoffs, employees were told not to come into the office, and the layoff emails came in waves, employees told Yahoo Finance. The first round came around 6 a.m. ET, and a second wave came at 9 a.m. ET. A Reality Labs employee got the email at 9 a.m., just as she had begun to breathe a sigh of relief, she said.

“At Reality Labs we still thought this is top priority, so two weeks ago there was a sudden stop,” she added. “We just went off the specter of ‘we’re Reality Labs, we’re going to be fine.’ Even that morning, talking to people, I thought we were going to be fine.”

Reality Labs has become somewhat infamous, as it has lost billions as the company pivots to the metaverse. In an internal email, CEO Mark Zuckerberg took responsibility for the layoffs, saying he had grossly miscalculated the operating climate.

“Not only has online commerce reverted to past trends, but the macroeconomic downturn, increased competition and loss of ad signals have resulted in our revenue being much lower than I had anticipated,” he told employees via email. “I got this wrong and I take responsibility for it.”

The employees Yahoo Finance spoke to were divided on how satisfied they were with the benefits they receive, which include payment of remaining paid time off, 16 weeks of severance pay and career and immigration support, according to documents obtained by Yahoo Finance. The pregnant tech recruiter said Meta did not provide enough clarity on benefits, particularly when it came to healthcare, while the other two said they were happy with their packages.

Even with generous severance pay, mass layoffs can carry legal risks and, if unplanned, can spur litigation.

“When companies do things like this hastily, they can make mistakes that create problems,” said Melissa Atkins, a labor and employment partner at Obermayer. “Although something may be neutral on its face, it may be discriminatory in its impact.”

Twitter has already been hit by a proposed class action lawsuit, which claims the company did not give employees enough notice of the mass layoffs under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

Atkins expects to see more layoffs in the coming months, and it’s possible we haven’t seen the latest cuts in Big Tech or at Meta.

“I think if my job had survived, I’d still be very nervous right now,” said one Meta employee.

Meta shares are up 10% on the day since the market close on Thursday, but down around 66% so far this year.

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks.

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