Last week, Baker McKenzie shocked the biglaw world with the early announcement of year-end bonuses. It may be one of the highest earning companies in the country, but it’s not known as a top compensation executive, so everyone was shocked by the move. So far, the company’s announcement has been met with a loud silence; no other company fit in. Baker McKenzie employees are pissed off – and not just because the bonus scale has been the same in most major law firms for years.
Employees are furious about more bonuses the company has promised.
As you may recall, when Baker McKenzie first rolled out salary cuts in May due to the coronavirus crisis, the company promised – 15 percent for all lawyers and businesspeople earning over $ 100,000 in the U.S. and 10 percent across the board Canada special awards for “exemplary performance” during the pandemic. The company later ran a layoff round in the US and Canada to get the remaining employees to do math like crazy for fear of losing their jobs too. When the company announced its year-end bonuses, it also announced an end to those wage cuts on November 30th and again reminded employees of these special bonuses. At this point there was no mention of anyone being reimbursed for their wages lost due to the seven month wage cut.
As it turns out, these bonuses may not be bonuses at all. Sources have told us that these bonuses can be used as a means of redeeming lost compensations and not everyone will receive them. It should be noted at this point that the vast majority of the other companies that cut compensation due to the pandemic have already reinstated and reimbursed full salaries for all affected employees, or are working on reimbursing them.
Here is a memo that employees at the Baker McKenzie office in Toronto, Canada received regarding their special awards where employees are reportedly “angry”:
Please note that this plan may be limited to the company’s Canadian office. We asked Baker McKenzie for a comment on whether the company intends to reimburse its US employees through similar “bonuses” or whether it will do so in other ways, such as lump sums, and received this statement:
The advertised bonuses are our year-end bonuses which will be paid out in January according to our usual schedule. We also plan to recognize and reward our top performers whose practices have been influenced by the recession, as well as others who are exemplary in the face of the increasing demands on their time this year. We will make these determinations after the end of the year.
We have not yet made a final decision on the details of the “bonuses” to offset pay cuts in North America. As already mentioned, these differ from the annual bonuses for employees.
Hmm We assume we’ll see what happens, but we remain confident that the company will repay its employees and offer real special bonuses instead of just offering bonuses in their name.
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Staci Zaretsky is Senior Editor at Above the Law, where she has been working since 2011. She would love to hear from you. Please send her an email with tips, questions, comments or criticism. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.