Fired employees often say impolite things. But only at Microsoft are their pink slips unprintable. The software giant fired 1,400 people this week — some with specially encoded, read-only email.

A tipster who saw one of the notices says the email had DRM restrictions — similar to the ones that prevent the copying of music files — that prevented it from being forwarded or printed, and instructed the fired employees to pack up their things and go home, where their severance package would be mailed. As the tipster put it: "No meeting with their boss. No meeting with HR. Nada."

It's a bit surprising that no one has raised a stink about Microsoft's email firings. Two years ago, when RadioShack laid off 400 people by email, it became a nationwide story. Perhaps Microsoft employees are more accustomed to doing business electronically. And give Microsoft HR some credit: Sparing the newly jobless an awkward, canned speech might actually be a blessing.

Update: Amusingly sarcastic Microsoft hyperflack Frank Shaw writes in a non-self-destructing series of emails:

Not accurate at all.

The company went to great efforts to notify people in person, with dignity and respect. It would have involved an email to supplement a discussion only in cases where people were remote.

And maybe nobody raised a stink because it's not true, eh?

Our source witnessed the unprintable pink slip firsthand.

(Artist's rendition of Microsoft email by Owen Thomas, using Microsoft Entourage, an actual Microsoft product)