The Gagarinsky District Court of Moscow is already considering the second lawsuit filed by Elena Kukushkina, a former employee of the international law firm Baker McKenzie, who left Russia, follows from the case file. She is demanding $271,698 from the company in compensation for unused vacation and interest for the delay in paying them.
Kukushkina worked in a law firm as an adviser to labor practice and was responsible for providing methodological assistance in the field of labor law. On February 24, 2022, she signed a termination agreement with the last day on March 22 of the same year. At the same time, in the lawsuit, Kukushkina indicates that she actually stopped working on February 28, 2022.
According to the claims of the former employee, from February 2008 until July 2019, the company did not provide her with annual paid leave due to high employment. The lawyer also points out that she herself wrote an application for leave, but it was not provided to her and was not issued.
A court hearing has been scheduled for May 29.
Kukushkina is not the first ex-partner of Baker McKenzie to seek compensation from her former employer. Prior to her, in February 2023, the Khoroshevsky Court of Moscow recovered from the company in favor of another partner, Igor Makarov, about half a million dollars for illegal dismissal, including for unscheduled vacation days.
Sergey Voitishkin, managing partner of Melling, Voitishkin & Partners (former managing partner of the Moscow office of Baker McKenzie), representing the interests of the defendant in both lawsuits, called the claims of ex-colleagues cynical. “They received substantial compensation from the firm upon dismissal, and now they have filed claims since 2008, knowing full well that the period of storage of vacation documents is 3-5 years and that many documents have not been preserved,” the lawyer notes. Defending against such lawsuits is not easy given the formal approach of the courts, he points out. “As with Makarov, we have collected a lot of evidence regarding Kukushkina – we have already submitted her leave applications to the court, as well as information about her vacation trips abroad,” continues Voitishkin. The firm hopes to prove in court that former employees are abusing their rights, he said.
Lawyer Anna Ivanova representing Kukushkina’s interests objects that her principal applied to the court within the legal period – the statute of limitations for cases of recovering compensation for unused vacation is one year. According to her, during the period specified in the lawsuit from 2008 to 2019, Kukushkina was not on official leave, and if she went somewhere abroad, she continued to work remotely. As Ivanova previously noted in an interview with Vedomosti, many such lawsuits are expected, and not only in the legal business.
“This is especially true for foreign companies, because for some reason they believed that they could advise on the Russian market and at the same time not comply with the laws of the Russian Federation,” she said. Ivanova points out that there is no such situation with unused vacations in Russian companies. “There are accumulated vacations, but for a Russian company, 400-600 days like this is a completely egregious story, and yet companies are watching,” the lawyer concluded.
When asked by Vedomosti how the court decision would be enforced if the court satisfies the claims, despite the fact that the global Baker McKenzie left the Russian Federation, Ivanova explained that the Russian branch of the foreign company remained, changing the brand name to Melling, Voitishkin & Partners.
The international law firm Baker McKenzie announced its withdrawal from the Russian market in March 2022, after the start of a special operation in Ukraine. At the same time, the company’s divisions in Moscow and St. Petersburg with former employees became independent law firms, Makarov did not want to work in it.
Every year, more than 200,000 labor dispute applications are filed with the courts. Of these, a third is initiated by the prosecutor’s office. In 2021 alone, according to the Supreme Court, the total amount of labor claims is more than 24 billion rubles. At the same time, out of 200,000 cases, only 9,403 cases are about reinstatement at work (service), of which more than half (6,409 cases) are due to dismissal at the initiative of the employer. In this category of cases, more than half a billion rubles were collected by the courts from employers.
Key Consulting Group public law lawyer Vladislav Radov explained that the employer is obliged to pay the dismissed employee the average salary for the month after the dismissal, if this was caused by a reduction in the number of employees or staff, compensation for all unused vacations. The most effective remedy is still going to court – in particular, about reinstatement at work or changing the date and wording of the reason for dismissal with the recovery of earnings for the time of forced absenteeism, compensation for moral damage.