Employee Loses Bonus for Not Following Return-to-Office Policies, Sues

An AstraZeneca employee sued the company in state court on Tuesday, alleging that she was not paid her due performance and incentive bonuses. She asserts that the company retroactively imposed a requirement that she come into the office at least three days a week and gave her no notice that not following the rule could impact her bonus.

The suit was brought under the South Carolina Wage Payment Statute (S.C. Code Section 41-10-10 et seq.) and the common law of South Carolina. The plaintiff, who worked as a Senior Director of Business Transformation for AstraZeneca, worked from home full time from 2016 to January 2023. During that time, she regularly earned a yearly performance bonus and a long-term incentive bonus of stock options, which the complaint asserts are “wages” under the South Carolina wage statute.

According to the complaint, AstraZeneca set out clear requirements for the plaintiff’s bonus each year. However, in 2023, the complaint alleges that the company retroactively changed the bonus criteria after the plaintiff had achieved the goals. Without any prior notice, says the complaint, the company told the plaintiff that she would only receive half of her promised performance bonus and none of her long-term incentive bonus because she did not come into the office at least three days a week.

According to the South Carolina wage payment law, a company must provide seven days’ written notice before changing certain employment terms related to hours and wages. The complaint asks for actual, compensatory, special, and consequential damages; wages due under South Carolina Code Section 41-10-10, et seq.; treble damages under the wage payment statute; reasonable attorneys’ fees; and other just and equitable relief.

The suit comes as many companies have begun asking and sometimes requiring employees to abandon remote work and return to the office. According to NPR, even Zoom, the company behind the product that makes remote work possible for many, is asking employees to return to work in person. BlackRock, the investment management firm, is now asking employees to come in four days a week, and Farmers Insurance is requiring some employees to come in three days a week after declaring they would stay remote last year.

Additional Reading

AstraZeneca refused to pay full bonus to US remove worker, lawsuit claims, Reuters (September 20, 2023)

Bodes v. AstraZeneca Complaint

Image Credit: JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com