Cabela’s employees in Sidney decide their fate today; unclear what’s next for those who stay with Bass Pro Shops

Two weeks ago, Cabela’s employees in Sidney were given a choice: quit now and take a bonus, or stay on with the company and test your fate.

Thursday was the deadline for employees to make that decision.

The company’s new owner, Bass Pro Shops, offered buyout packages to employees at the former headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska, where the company once employed more than 2,000 people in its home office and in other functions.

As the two companies combine, Bass has begun the process of eliminating duplicate jobs and will consolidate the headquarters in its home of Springfield, Missouri.

At least some employees who accepted the buyout offer — two weeks of severance pay for each year worked at Cabela’s, plus up to a $40,000 bonus — will leave the company for good on March 8, according to documents obtained by The World-Herald.

The company didn’t respond to a question asking how many employees have accepted the buyout offer.

It’s unclear what will happen to employees who do not take the buyout offer. Bass Pro hasn’t said in documents sent to employees what could be ahead; a spokesman did not answer questions about the remaining employees’ future.

The bonuses of up to $40,000 come from a pot of money contributed by Bass Pro Chief Executive Johnny Morris himself. Morris recently challenged former Cabela’s executives and owners to contribute to the fund as well, although there was little participation, Bass has said.

Some Cabela’s employees and others have wondered why the company is making employees choose whether to resign and take buyouts vs. laying off everyone who needs to be cut in one fell swoop.

There are a few practical reasons a company might go that route, said Scott S. Moore, a partner at Baird Holm in Omaha who focuses on labor and employment law.

Employers would much rather have employees themselves make a decision about leaving the company than force them to leave, he said. Although the future remains uncertain, it also gives those hoping to stay with the company a shot at expressing that by not taking the buyout.

“Employees to a greater degree control their own destiny and have decisions to make, rather than having decisions thrust upon them,” Moore said.

And most employees typically accept buyout offers, meaning the employer doesn’t have to lay off as many people in the end.

If enough people accept the buyout and the company doesn’t have to lay off as many people, that can also mean a company isn’t required to file a so-called WARN notice with the State Labor Department. Such notices are generally required by law when a company with 100 or more employees closes an operation or lays off a large number of people. There is no such notice on file with the Labor Department as of Thursday.

Buyout packages also are more common when permanent restructuring is required, Moore said. Layoffs often happen as business ebbs and flows, when there might be opportunity in the future to hire more people. Such doesn’t seem the case with a combined Bass-Cabela’s, where most of the Sidney operation is closing.

For its part, Bass Pro said: “Our motivation is to help people in Sidney in a difficult situation,” according to spokesman Jack Wlezien. Bass has said that the buyout package is “above and beyond” any severance that employees would receive in the future.

After March 8, it’s unclear how many people will be left working in the Sidney office.

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