IBM Looks To Have Settled Age Discrimination Lawsuit

IBM’s legal fight against an age discrimination lawsuit has suddenly ended, strongly suggesting that Big Blue has settled with the plaintiffs.

Big Blue in the past has been accused of allegedly flouting rules against age bias, and axing mostly older staff and moving jobs overseas (a huge percentage of IBM staffers are now based in India and Bangladesh).

It comes after in-depth report by ProPublica and Mother Jones in March 2018 alleged that IBM had a systematic strategy of pushing out IBM staffers aged 40 and upwards, and replacing them with younger, and cheaper employees.

Age discrimination?

In that report, IBM is alleged to have laid off around 20,000 US employees over 40 years of age over the past five years.

However some IBM watchers believe this number is much higher.

Age discrimination is illegal in the United States thanks to the Employment Act, which became law in 1967.

But proving age discrimination can be difficult, and matters are not helped by it apparently being a fairly common practice in America, as it provides businesses with a smaller salary wage bill and lower benefits outlay.

The ProPublica and Mother Jones report in March 2018 triggered a lawsuit against IBM by Jonathan Langley, who was laid off in 2017 while serving as the worldwide program director and sales lead of IBM’s Bluemix cloud.

Langley has reportedly claimed that IBM laid him off specifically because of his age, then 59, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

He had been with IBM for 24 years.

And he claimed in the lawsuit that Big Blue was deliberately pursuing a company-wide plan to de-age its workforce.

In the Langley lawsuit, IBM HR VP Alan Wild revealed in a deposition that IBM had cut from 50,000 to 100,000 workers over the past five years.

Then in September 2019 Andrew W. Austin, a federal magistrate judge in Austin, Texas, ordered IBM to hand over internal documents, including memos and communications from then CEO Ginni Rometty, in relation to the lawsuit.

Possible settlement

Now the Register is reporting that the judge overseeing Langley’s age discrimination lawsuit against IBM has dismissed the case.

It seems that in January this year, federal magistrate judge Austin recommended that case be allowed to go to trial.

Then in February, IBM’s motion to dismiss the case was rejected.

And then last week, Judge David Ezra in the Texan Western District Court set the trial date for Monday, 19 October 2020.

But on Wednesday the court ordered the closing of the lawsuit. The court order cited a stipulation of dismissal by Langley and IBM.

That suggests the two parties have agreed to settle confidentially out of court, the Register reported.

That publication also quoted a partner at employment law firm Stewart & Musell as saying that while she had no specific knowledge about the resolution of the case, she said a settlement would not be surprising in light of the corporate documents available to the plaintiff.

And IBM may not be out of the woods yet, as Big Blue is reportedly still facing hundreds of similar age discrimination claims across the United States.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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