What Bill Gates giveth, Bill Gates can taketh away.

On Monday, it was revealed that Microsoft accidently overpaid some of the 1,400 employees it laid off last month and asked them for the money back.

The company reversed course late Monday and said the laid-off workers could keep the extra payouts.

Lisa Brummel, Microsoft's senior vice president for human resources, said the letters were mailed to 25 of the 1,400 people let go in January and that most of the checks were off by about $4,000 to $5,000.

Brummel said she learned of the letters over the weekend after one appeared on the technology blog TechCrunch.

The letter posted on the blog bears a Microsoft letterhead and a date of Feb. 18.

"This letter is to inform you that an inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft," reads the letter sent to an unnamed employee. "We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any overpayment to you."

Brummel called most of the 25 laid-off employees Monday to personally tell them Microsoft would not seek repayment after all.

"I decided it didn't quite feel right," she said in an interview.

On Jan. 22, the day the layoffs were announced, Microsoft reported its net income for the Oct.-Dec. 2008 quarter was down 11 percent from a year previously, but was still a healthy $4.17 billion.

• Click here for the TechCrunch report.

• Click here for the CNet News follow-up.

• Click here for a TechCrunch copy of the Microsoft layoffs and earnings memo.

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