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The former workers say they are just four of more than 20,000 IBM employees over age 40 who’ve been discharged during the past six years as the company secretly looked “to correct seniority mix” by replacing baby boomers with college graduates and other cheaper, tech-savvy young workers.
Four former IBM employees over age 55 sued the company Wednesday in what plaintiffs lawyers say is a potentially major age-discrimination lawsuit, alleging that top executives “took the calculated risk of openly breaking the law” to cover up massive, targeted layoffs of older workers.
The former workers, in a federal lawsuit focused on alleged company violations of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, say they are just four of more than 20,000 IBM employees over age 40 who’ve been discharged during the past six years as the company secretly looked “to correct seniority mix” by replacing baby boomers with recent college graduates and other cheaper, tech-savvy young workers.
The lawsuit centers many of its allegations on IBM’s alleged effort to conceal from older workers minimum information about the layoff demographics—information the plaintiffs say was required under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, or OWBPA—while asking laid-off workers to release their federal right to bring age-discrimination claims collectively as a group.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Johnson Webbert & Young said they will also seek to have a notice issued to older laid-off IBM employees who were treated similarly to their clients.
“[IBM’s] effort was the culmination of its internal reviews that stereotyped older workers as rigid and unreceptive to technology, and branded millennial employees as innovative,” Cohen Milstein and Johnson Webbert said in a news release Wednesday that was issued shortly after a complaint was filed in federal court in White Plains.
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In a phone interview, Joseph Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll said that he has “not seen before an effort like IBM’s to [allegedly] make an end-run around the OWBPA, and this lawsuit is challenging this unlawful tactic.”
He added that “IBM is relying on unlawful and unjustified stereotypes to remove older workers who have decades of tech experience, and this suit is also challenging that.”
The plaintiffs lawyers filed the separate-but-related arbitration claims because IBM’s severance agreement requires them to take their claims to arbitration, the lawyers said.
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