Paralegal sues Brisbane firm over COVID-19 pay reductions

A Brisbane-based paralegal has accused her former firm and its founder of dishonesty, alleging that they lied to her when they reduced her pay by 20 per cent.

user iconNaomi Neilson 12 January 2021 Big Law
Paralegal sues Brisbane firm over COVID-19 pay reductions
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In documents filed with the Federal Court, Carly Ann Frances Bullock has accused her former firm AJ & Co and its founder Andrew Johnson of unconscionable conduct when they told her all staff were taking a 20 per cent pay cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced her annual salary from $75,000 to $60,000 for some months.

Ms Bullock alleged that she was told the pay cuts were “not up for discussion” and that all staff were being made to sign a letter agreeing to the salary changes. However, the court documents, obtained by NewsCorp, alleged that she soon discovered that other staff had come to other agreements with the firm about their salary.

She also alleges that one of her bosses told her that Mr Johnson was on the “war path” of cutting back staff and she should “do herself a favour” by signing the letter. She said she felt that she had no choice but to sign or she would also be terminated.

Ms Bullock further accuses AJ & Co of increasing her workload when the terminations meant that they were understaffed. She also alleges that when she was offered a cash bonus in July for performing and receipting billable work on files, the targets were allegedly set too high. Mr Johnson said the  budget set was equal to her salary. 

The case against AJ & Co, Mr Johnson, partner Jonathan Whybird, business operation manager Rebecca Mync and chief financial officer Kathryn Sinclair is due in court on 8 February.

Managing partner Andrew Johnson commented: "We refer the claim in the Federal Court filed by a former employee of the firm. We will be filing a defence in relation to the claim in due course.

"As the matter is before the court, we cannot provide any further comment at this time."