Last week, older support staff at Alston & Bird received a memo encouraging them to think about the future:
We are pleased to introduce the Alston & Bird Staff Early Retirement Incentive Program. This Program is offered in response to requests from many of you and in our effort to continue to improve our staffing ratios in all offices. The Program is completely voluntary and is available to any paralegal, secretary or staff employee who has been employed by Alston & Bird for at least 10 years and is at least 55 years of age. If you qualify and are interested in participating in the Program, you must sign the Acknowledgement form at the end of this memo and return it to Michael Stephens no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26, 2008.
Employees who accept this offer may continue their employment through December 31, 2008. Employees can choose one of the following two benefit options, with payments beginning after termination of employment on December 31, 2008 (or such earlier date as may be agreed upon by the employee and the Firm).
“Completely voluntary?” How many people believe that the early retirement program is being offer because of overwhelming staff desire to “improve staffing ratios?”
For staffers with over 20 years at the firm, the early retirement plan offers 23 weeks of salary, or 16 weeks of salary plus a $450 health care subsidy.
Sound fair? Let’s fast forward to the end of the message:
Once again, please note that the deadline for electing to participate in the Program closes at 5:00 p.m. on November 26, 2008. The Firm may not offer this or any other early retirement or similar program again at a later date. If we do not receive an adequate number of responses in certain areas, the firm may need to take additional steps to adjust our staffing ratios.
An “adequate number of responses” reminds me of the scene in Gladiator when Commodus suffocates his father under the guise of a hug. How callous do you have to be to essentially threaten 55-year-old people who have worked for your company for over a decade with “additional steps to adjust our staffing ratios?” I know we’re in the midst of a serious financial crisis, but there’s a way to be a person about these things.
Predictably, older staff, younger staff, even attorneys at A&B are freaking out. A tipster reports:
Older staff is in panic. Get pressured into package now, or get laid off later with nothing. (Wonder how they’re going to fill those extra 2 floors they just leased in the NY office in this economic environment?) Nothing equivalent for lawyers yet, but A&B is very youth-worshiping, so it’s just a matter of time I expect.
We dig deeper into the “incentive program” and post it in full after the jump.