A Brisbane law firm, based in one of the city’s most sought-after buildings, has been accused of lying to a glamorous trainee lawyer to illegally lower their salary during the pandemic for fear of being fired.
AJ and Co was sued by Carly Ann Frances Bullock, 25, of Wooloowin, who alleged in her federal court case that the company and its founder lied to her when she was told that all of the company’s employees were suspected of being affected by COVID-19. Pandemic and « maintain the viability of the company ».
She accuses AJ and Co Lawyers Pty Ltd and its founder Andrew Johnson of « irresponsible behavior » for unfairly exploiting them by using superior bargaining power to influence them to agree to the wage cut from $ 75,000 a year to $ 60,000 in April .
She claims Mr Johnson knew that partnering with a law firm could not lawfully compel her to sign the wage cut letter without her consent and argued that she « had no choice but to sign the wage cut letter dated March 31, 2020, or her employment relationship would be terminated « and she was » unable … to make rational judgments to protect her own interests « .
Ms. Bullock claims that one of her bosses, management consultant Jonathan Whybird, told her in a phone call on April 2nd that Mr. Johnson « is currently on a warpath to lay off people, so now I would do myself a favor and do that. » Sign letter « . .
« I just got a call from Andrew (Johnson) who was very pissed off. I only pissed him off once or twice, » Mr. Whybird reportedly told Ms. Bullock.
She alleges in her legal claim that Mr. Johnson lied when he told her, « The wage cuts are not up for discussion. Everyone must take a wage cut, » because attorney Thomas Allan successfully negotiated with Johnson on April 6, not 20 per cent to take reduction on his salary and to keep his $ 75,000 salary.
Since then, Mr. Allan has left the company, which advertises itself on its website as a « commercial alternative to world-class professional service companies » and is based in the blue chip Waterfront Place building on Eagle Street in Brisbane’s business district.
She also claims that fellow lawyers Telsa Andersen and Carla Chiraldelli « did not lower their hourly rates, » and instead the company agreed to allow them to take one day off each week.
Ms. Bullock claims that when pay was cut during the pandemic, her workload increased as the downsizing left the company understaffed.
The March wage cut letter said the cut should « maintain the profitability of the business » and « help reduce the prospect of further layoffs in the future ».
« The company kindly asks you to agree to this reduction in your pay, » the March letter said.
Bullock started as a personal assistant and paralegal in September 2018 on a salary of $ 75,000 and left the company on July 10.
She has sued the company, along with Mr. Johnston, CFO Kathryn Sinclair, business manager Rebecca Mync, and consulting partner Jonathan Whybird, alleging serious violations of the fair labor law.
She alleged in May that Ms. Sinclair falsely told her that « the company does not currently have the cash flow » to restore regular wages when the jobkeeper payments actually increased the company’s cash flow.
She claims her salary rose slightly to $ 65,702 in May following the April wage cut. In July, she was offered a cash bonus based on how many overdue legal fees she was able to collect from late clients, but she claims the targets were set too high.
No response was filed, and AJ and Co staff did not respond to The Courier-Mail’s request for comment.
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