Current Cases

IBM Age Discrimination Litigation

Status Current Case

Practice area Civil Rights & Employment

Court United States District Court, Southern District of New York

Case number 7:21-cv-09928


On March 27, 2024, the Honorable Vincent L. Briccetti of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied IBM’s motion to dismiss Rodriguez, et al. v. IBM, a putative Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) action brought on behalf of 16 former employees of IBM Corporation who claim that IBM allegedly terminated their employment because of their age.

The Court ruled that the Plaintiffs’ claims were timely despite their not filing charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) before filing this lawsuit, as IBM had been on notice for many years of substantively similar claims involving IBM’s mass layoffs, including class-wide age bias claims filed with the EEOC. In its ruling, the Court said that in accordance with Second Circuit case law, the former workers can “piggyback” on fellow former employee EEOC age bias charges. In response to some of these charges, the EEOC had found that IBM violated the ADEA when it conducted its mass layoffs.

Cohen Milstein is co-counsel in this matter with Johnson, Webbert & Young, and Gibbs Law Group.

Case Background

On November 24, 2021, Plaintiffs filed this action against IBM for allegedly terminating their employment because of their age, in violation of the ADEA. The Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint on September 8, 2023.

The 16 plaintiffs bringing this action challenge IBM’s systematic replacement of its older employees with much younger workers. Plaintiffs claim that in an effort to rebrand its image and shift its recruiting focus to “Millennials,” or people born between 1980 and 1996, IBM carried out a company-wide scheme of discharging its older workers through group terminations, known at IBM as “Resource Actions,” in violation of the ADEA.

Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that IBM devised and implemented company-wide policies and practices to effectuate its discriminatory scheme to replace older workers with younger workers, including: (a) directing its managers to give lower performance evaluation scores and take other adverse actions against older workers in order to provide a purported basis on which to select those workers for termination via Resource Actions; (b) exempting or protecting from layoff “early professionals” and recent college graduates, who are much younger than the average IBM employee; and (c) taking affirmative steps to keep its workforce and the public in the dark about its discriminatory practices, including falsely classifying Resource Action terminations as retirements or performance-based terminations.

To further cover up its unlawful mass layoffs of older workers and insulate its actions from legal challenge, IBM ended its longstanding practice, dating back to at least 2001, of providing employees ages 40 and older who were chosen for layoffs with comparator information that would reveal if older workers were being disproportionately selected for termination.

IBM’s plan to replace its older employees with much younger ones was implemented and achieved its apparent purpose. Over the past six years, IBM discharged more than 20,000 workers who were age 40 or older and who worked at facilities in the United States. This longstanding, companywide campaign to target, discharge, and replace older workers demonstrates that discrimination against older workers has been the company’s standard operating procedure—the regular, rather than the unusual practice—at IBM.

 Individual case name: Rodriquez, et al. v. IBM, Case No. 7:21-cv-09928-UA, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York