Lakin firm files class action for employees who didn't get retention bonuses

Kelly Holleran Dec. 10, 2008, 7:23am

A class action lawsuit filed in Madison County Circuit Court on Dec. 4 alleges ConocoPhillips failed to pay retention bonuses promised to its employees.

Class plaintiff James P. Erlandson alleges ConocoPhillips failed to pay him a retention bonus after he left the company for "good reason."

"Defendants also promised that if prior to the payment date 'you resign from the Company and its affiliates for Good Reason, you shall be paid the Retention Bonus within 10 days following the date of such termination of employment," the suit states.

Erlandson claims he left the company after discovering through a letter that his target bonus opportunity percentage would be 10 percent when it used to be 30 percent of his annual salary.

According to the retention letter, good reason included "any reduction in your target bonus opportunity percentage from your target bonus opportunity percentage in effect on the date hereof," the suit states.

A target bonus opportunity was a specific percentage of an employee's salary set by an employee's job grade level, according to the complaint.

ConocoPhillips offered the retention bonuses after it announced plans to acquire Burlington Resources in 2005, according to the complaint.

Erlandson claims he resigned on Aug. 2, 2006, but on Sept. 12, 2006, ConocoPhillips refused to pay him the retention bonus.

The class included in the complaint are all former employees of Burlington Resources who accepted the retention letter and who resigned before March 31, 2007, according to the complaint.

ConocoPhillips breached its contract because it failed to pay the retention bonuses to Erlandson and class members, the suit states.

Erlandson is asking the case be classified as a class action lawsuit and is seeking unspecified damages, costs, attorneys' fees and other relief the court deems just.

Bradley M. Lakin, Robert W. Schmieder and Mark L. Brown of The Lakin Law Firm in Wood River will be representing Erlandson and the putative class.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 08-L-1144.

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