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Automattic

Pay, Leave and Discrimination

A post about facebook’s pay being “barbaric” is making the rounds. If paying people different amounts depending on location is a bad thing then Automattic has been blazing that trail for years.

A javascript developer in say Texas and another in say Italy will not be paid the same despite the fact they do exactly the same work.

A happiness engineer in France will not be paid the same as a happiness engineer in India despite the fact they do exactly the same work.

What you – or anyone – is paid at Automattic is a secret between you, HR and anyone else at a level to oversee that.

There is an argument here for ‘cost of living’ but secrecy creates uncertainty, bad feeling.

But there is more.

On their “Work with Us” page it states:

Open vacation policy (no set number of days per year). We encourage all employees to take the time they need for vacation, to pursue their own interests, to stay healthy, and to spend time with friends and family.

This is not correct.
HR have stated that it is expected that you take an amount of vacation that is typical to your country.
In the USA? That’s two weeks
In the EU? That’s more like four to six weeks
Leave is also at the discretion of the team lead. If they want to give you a hard time they can. It has happened that team member #1 (in the USA) takes a third week off and gets grilled why, yet in the same team member #2 (in the EU) takes their fourth week off and nothing is said.

By having multiple teams, and several layers of management discrimination like this it is both baked in and deniable.

Looking to apply to Automattic? Ask direct questions.

8 replies on “Pay, Leave and Discrimination”

Leave is also at the discretion of the team lead.

Which means that taking your legal entitlement of leave can draw criticism from your lead, if they are from someplace where they’re legally entitled to less.

I very specifically remember going on parental leave at a8c as an HE. I went through the whole process and then when time came to return, it turned out that the time was calculated incorrectly and that I was out for a few days longer than the 12 weeks that were allowed for a US person and that there were some issues with my insurance. I had to pay the full amount for the insurance coverage for those few days (I also got a BOATLOAD of hassle from my lead for taking all 12 weeks because he needed me in the queues). I didn’t mind paying at the time, even though I had sat down with Lori to figure the days and so it’s not like I was the only one making the mistake.

However VERY soon afterwards, one of the Leads (also a US resident) decided to take FIVE MONTHS of parental leave and per the P2 post, A8c was covering everything to ensure that they got the time they felt they needed with their new child.

There is truly no such thing as equality at Automattic.

Antimattic poster on June 1 at 3:05 pm ET:
This is Lori from HR at Automattic. I am so sorry this was your experience at Automattic. Leaves in the US can be incredibly complicated, and I’ll acknowledge that I may have made mistakes, particularly if you were on an intermittent leave. Our policy (since I’ve been at Automattic, which is coming up on ten years) is that folks expecting a child (birth or adoption) can take up to six months’ paid leave if they’ve been with us for at least one year. When we were with TriNet (which it sounds like we were when you took leave, as the first five month leave was in 2016), they had a policy that after someone had been on leave for 12 weeks, we could no longer cover them through group insurance, and the individual would need to assume COBRA costs. We included that in the Field Guide so no one would be caught unawares. Because of that, most US Automatticians chose to limit their leave so that they wouldn’t have to pay medical costs out of pocket for months 4, 5, and 6. We had issues with TriNet cancelling people’s insurance prematurely, and when we learned of those situations it was a priority to get it reinstated asap. I don’t remember any cases where we were told that an Automattician had to pay for their own insurance for days (insurance is usually billed monthly). If we had known about that, we would have 1 – escalated it to TriNet and if they insisted on it then 2 – offered to pay for the out of pocket costs.

In July 2016, when responding to mounting complaints about TriNet (including their leave policies), one of our account reps suggested a workaround that we implemented for the remainder of time we were a TriNet client. We published the workaround in the Field Guide:

“If you’ve been an employee of Automattic, Inc. for 12 consecutive months before the start of your leave, you’re eligible for 12 weeks of job-protected leave under FMLA. We’re required to record your leave in TriNet. After 12 weeks of FMLA leave, TriNet automatically terminates you from their group health coverage and sends you COBRA paperwork for you to assume payment of your health insurance premiums. This isn’t something that Automattic has control over; it is a TriNet policy to cancel group health coverage at the end of 12 weeks. If you’d like to take more than 12 weeks of time off following the birth or adoption of your child, you can, but there are certain steps we’ll need you to complete in order to avoid interruption of your health benefits and triggering COBRA paperwork:
– When you share your anticipated leave dates with HR, please indicate that the first 12 weeks will be FMLA leave.
– At the end of the 12 weeks of FMLA leave, please “return to work” by hopping online and letting us know that you’re returning from leave, but would like to take additional time off.
– We’ll note the end of your FMLA leave – and confirm that you’re on regular time off (or vacation) per our Time Off policy for the remainder of the time that you’ll be out.”

I’m sorry to hear that your team lead was pressuring you to return. That’s certainly not the experience that we want new parents to have and had we been aware of it, would have reached out to them.

Hi OP! Lori from HR again 🙂 In the original post you mentioned, “HR have stated that it is expected that you take an amount of vacation that is typical to your country.”

In the FG, we share, “There is no minimum or maximum, but we encourage you to take at least 25 days of time off per year.” I’m not aware of our team saying that we expect you to take vacation typical to your country.

When we have reported on time off (we’re often asked by press about our time off policies), we have said that time off patterns tend to follow country norms. That’s an observation, not an expectation. I apologize if it came across as an expectation.

If a team lead is denying leave requests (without a business reason), please reach out to HR. We want our guidelines to be applied as consistently as possible, and are happy to talk to team leads.

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