Judge Orders IBM To Hand Over Documents In Age Discrimination Case

IBM executives including CEO Ginni Rometty, have been ordered by a US Federal judge to hand over memos and communications, as part of an age discrimination lawsuit.

Big Blue in the past has been accused of allegedly flouting rules against age bias, and axing mostly older staff and moving jobs overseas.

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

IBM CEO Rometty

Age discrimination?

In the 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 reportedly being a 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.

Now Andrew W. Austin, a federal magistrate judge in Austin, Texas, has ordered IBM to hand over internal documents, the Register reported.

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). And he claims Big Blue is deliberately pursuing a company-wide plan to de-age its workforce.

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

IBM denial

It should be noted that IBM has strenuously denied the age discrimination claims.

“IBM will comply with any final order of the court,” IBM spokesperson Edward Barbini told the Register. “We will establish that this case has no merit, and IBM makes its hiring decisions based on skills and business demands, not on age.”

IBM has 20 days to produce the requested executive documents.

IBM still employs 350,000 people around the world, with tens of thousands still in the United States. However some 130,000 IBM staffers are now said to be based in India and Bangladesh.

IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer Ginni Rometty has previously acknowledged that the company is shrinking “by design”.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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