If you were terminated by IBM as a part of a group termination when you were age 40 or older and you would like to join this action as a party claimant, please review, complete, and submit the IBM Age Discrimination Questionnaire accessible here.

On March 27, 2019, Cohen Milstein and Johnson, Webbert & Young, LLP, on behalf of former employees of IBM Corporation, filed an age discrimination class action against the tech giant in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (White Plains) for violating the federal laws prohibiting age discrimination, including the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The plaintiffs bringing the class action are all over age 55 and were terminated by IBM in 2016 in one of its “Resource Actions.”   They are just four of over 20,000 IBM employees over the age of 40 who have been discharged from IBM during the past six years. 

Case Background

Plaintiffs allege that in 2014 IBM began implementing a company-wide plan, hatched by top executives, to illegally conceal evidence of its large-scale discriminatory layoffs—called “Resource Actions”—that eliminated older employees in favor of much younger ones.

Also in 2014, plaintiffs allege, IBM made an intentional decision to begin concealing information about the layoff demographics as required by the OWBPA. Contrary to its past practices, IBM began asking laid-off workers to release their right, under the ADEA, to bring age discrimination claims collectively as a group without providing any of the “minimum” evidence explicitly required by the OWBPA. Plaintiffs further allege that IBM also coerced laid-off workers to sign arbitration agreements, waiving their federally-protected rights to bring ADEA claims in court.

The OWBPA protects older workers from unfair coercion and manipulation when they are laid off and offered severance packages in return for the release of their rights to bring age discrimination claims under the ADEA. One key protection is that the employer cannot obtain a valid release from a group of laid-off workers of their rights under the ADEA without first providing them with critical comparator evidence of possible age discrimination in the layoff selection process.

The OWBPA mandates without exception disclosures including “any eligibility factors” for the layoff, as well as the ages and job titles of everyone in their unit who lost their job and everyone in their unit who was spared. Congress determined this “minimum” information was essential for employees to knowingly evaluate whether the layoff “may be designed to remove older workers from the labor force.”

Plaintiffs allege that IBM took the calculated risk of openly breaking the law to cover up its massive layoffs of older workers, which were designed to “correct” its “seniority mix” by replacing baby boomers with what it called “early professional hires.” This effort was the culmination of its internal reviews that stereotyped older workers as rigid and unreceptive to technology, and branded millennial employees as innovative.

Plaintiffs cite numerous examples of this corporate plan to remove older employees to make way for millennials, including 1) IBM’s HR Dep’t devised rules making older workers more likely to be selected for Resource Actions. For example, IBM exempted its so-called “early professional hires” and recent college graduates from Resource Actions, and 2) IBM also manipulated the performance review process by directing the reduction of the annual performance ratings for older workers and then using those sham evaluation scores as a key factor to justify picking older workers to be discharged through the Resource Actions.

The lawsuit comes after a bombshell story last summer by ProPublica, “Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM,” which exposed a company-wide pattern of age discrimination practices spanning many units and geographical locations.

While filing their complaint in federal court, asking the court to invalidate their release of their ADEA rights, Plaintiffs are also filing age discrimination claims in arbitration because IBM’s Severance Agreement requires them to take all their claims to arbitration.

In addition to seeking to invalidate the illegal waiver of their rights under the ADEA, Plaintiffs seek the issuance of notice to all other similarly situated laid off older employees who were coerced into signing the invalid releases and the certification of their collective claims under the ADEA, as well as declaratory, equitable, and monetary relief.

If you were terminated by IBM as a part of a group termination when you were age 40 or older and you would like to join this action as a party claimant, please review, complete, and submit the IBM Age Discrimination Questionnaire accessible here.

 Mail, fax, or email the completed consent form to:

Johnson, Webbert & Young LLP

P.O. Box 79

Augusta, ME 04332

Fax: 207.622.4160

npollock@work.law