A downturn in the U.S. economy in 2020 led to a busy year for Trina Ricketts, a shareholder in Ogletree Deakins’ Kansas City office.
Ricketts’ practice includes guiding companies through reductions in force, also known as RIFs, and through the ins and outs of the WARN Act, which requires employers of a certain size to give advance warning of mass layoffs.
The work has paid off for Ricketts, who in late April was appointed to co-lead the firm’s national RIF/WARN practice group. She serves alongside David Froiland, managing partner of Ogletree Deakins’ Milwaukee office, in overseeing a practice group of about 40 attorneys nationwide.
At the outset of the pandemic, with employers facing tough staffing decisions, the practice group immediately sprang into action, organizing into teams to be able to better handle a higher volume of work and putting together free resources on the firm’s website, Ricketts said.
“There was just so much going on and so many changes and different legislation, and cities had different rules than the states,” she said. “It was really tough to try to track everything. We tried to put together some complementary resources and some product resources that would require a minimal fee on what states were doing for COVID-19 and what type of unemployment changes were being made by the states.”
In response to the pandemic and the needs of the firm’s clients, the practice group developed a voluntary separation program portfolio.
The portfolio includes a suite of documents that a company may purchase for a fixed fee. It includes everything that a company would need to undertake a voluntary separation program, from the announcement of the program to FAQs for employees and talking points for managers.
“Frankly, it gets a company 85 percent of the way [through] a voluntary separation program,” Ricketts said. “It needs to be tailored for their culture and whatever benefits they want to provide to their employees, but it has been a really great product. Clients have been really happy with it.”
Ricketts said one thing she’s learned during the course of the past year is that her clients are reassured to learn they’re not the only employers having to make tough decisions.
“I think this year has shown how much clients and employers care about their employees and want to do the right thing by their employees,” she said. “These are decisions corporate leaders don’t want to make but have to make.”
Ricketts served for five years as managing partner of the Kansas City office. She also serves as co-chair of the firm’s OD Family business resource group, which helps the firm’s staff navigate family transitions.