Four former IBM employees have sued IBM, and they've hired a class-action law firm famous for winning big cases.
They are alleging that IBM engaged in a "massive scheme to cover up discriminatory layoff of over 20,000 older workers in knowing violation of disclosure requirements."
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One lawyer representing the former employees, Joe Sellers from law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, tells Business Insider that IBM's statement is a bit of red herring. Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll is a well-known class-action law firm that's won hundreds of millions of dollars against the likes of Apple, Caterpillar, Citigroup, Mercedes Benz, BP, Bristol-Myers Squibb and many others.
Sellers says that this lawsuit is not attempting to get the court to rule out arbitration agreements. He says his clients are honoring the agreement and have also filed suits with arbitrators.
This lawsuit isn't challenging the arbitration agreements per se. It's challenging the part where employees waived their rights to sue collectively, arguing that IBM did not first give them the information about the ages of the people being laid off, as, he says, is required by law.
"The only issue presented to the court is whether or not to enforce the waiver [to sue collectively]," he said.
And that means this lawsuit is different from the one filed by IBM employees last fall. That age discrimination lawsuit was filed by people who didn't sign a waiver that prevented them from suing collectively in exchange for severance, he said.
Sellers says his clients are those that did sign those waivers. He's trying to represent an estimated 20,000 people who also did. He believes that his case will allow these IBM workers to sue the company in court and not be liable for having to return their severance checks.
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