Less than a week after IBM was ordered in an age discrimination case to create internal emails in which its former CEO and former SVP of human resources discussed reducing the number of older workers, the IT giant decided to close the case prefer to settle for an undisclosed amount Continue with the process next month.
The order, issued June 9 in Schenfeld versus IBMdescribes Exhibit 10, which “contains emails discussing IBM’s efforts to increase the number of ‘Millennial’ employees”.
Plaintiff Eugene Schenfeld, who worked as a research scientist at IBM when current CEO Arvind Krishna led IBM’s research group, sued IBM in November 2018 for age discrimination. His lawsuit is one of many following a March 2018 report by ProPublica and Mother Jones about a concerted effort to rejuvenate IBM and a 2020 finding by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that IBM- Executives had instructed managers to lay off older workers to make room for younger ones.
“The emails contained in Attachment 10 demonstrate an interest at the CEO level at the time in changing the profile of IBM employees to reflect a younger workforce,” New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Alberto Rivas said in his Decision.
On June 14, the judge dismissed the case because IBM agreed to a settlement. This prevents the messages, in which former CEO Ginny Rometty and former HR SVP Diane Gherson are set to discuss what the judge called “the push to increase the number of millennial workers and reduce the number of older workers.” designated, to be published.
IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the settlement.
When we asked IBM for comment on the case earlier this month, an IBM spokesman repeated previous claims that the plaintiff in the case, Eugene Schenfeld, was lawfully fired.
“The facts have not changed: There was and is no systemic age discrimination at IBM and the data supports it,” said IBM’s spokesman. “Moreover, in the Schenfeld case, age played no role whatsoever in the departure of this person.”
The IBM spokesperson referred to a February post by IBM Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux, in which he insisted there had never been “systematic age discrimination” at IBM and allegedly presented exculpatory data for a period from 2010 to 2020 – which is not the time period cited in any of the age discrimination lawsuits The registry has seen.
The registry IBM’s spokesman asked, “Is IBM willing to share the age and number of people fired between 2014 and 2020 in the United States. And the age and number of people hired?”
We were told, “We have nothing to add to the data points from Nickle’s February message.”
A similar age discrimination lawsuit filed in 2018 by former IBM Bluemix global program director Jonathan Langley was settled in 2020 for an undisclosed sum. In this case, the settlement also followed a judge’s order to release Ginny Rometty’s emails.
Around 2014, according to ProPublica, IBM stopped sharing age data with laid-off employees as before and began requiring employees to pursue age discrimination claims through private arbitration, in which corporate plaintiffs prevail to receive severance pay more often than they do in federal or state court.
The price of silence
The amount Schenfeld will receive has not been released and settlements usually involve confidentiality requirements. However, the amount is likely to be in the millions of dollars based on compensation sought in an ongoing IBM age discrimination lawsuit involving eight different plaintiffs in Texas. Kinney et al. against IBM.
In this case, the compensation sought — which IBM says was currently miscalculated — ranges from about $400,000 to $2,500,000 per plaintiff. These figures attempt to account for, among other things, the working life expectancy of a laid-off worker, expected earnings during that period, actual earnings after separation, benefits, and damages.
Last week, the plaintiffs’ legal team in the Kinney case filed a motion [PDF] IBM’s efforts to limit the scope of testimony and evidence admissible in court proceedings.
“IBM is now seeking a protective order to protect the company from addressing four investigation issues related to IBM’s workforce transformation,” the response motion reads. “In particular, IBM is trying to protect its corporate representative from testifying about changes in its workforce that IBM executives have publicly touted and that are at the center of the plaintiffs’ age discrimination case.”
The movement references 31 exhibits submitted under seal. One such document, described in the filing, is a report to IBM’s board of directors: “IBM executives prepared presentations for IBM’s board of directors that made specific reference to the plan, the age of IBM’s workforce ‘Rebalance’ by 2020.”
Another describes an edict by IBM’s chief human resources officer to immunize so-called early professional hires against layoffs at Resource Action.
The Kinney case is scheduled to go to trial on Monday, January 23, 2023. But if the evidence described in the court documents can be presented in court, the results of the Schenfeld and Langley cases suggest IBM will reach an agreement and continue to exist until then it has acted lawfully. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/06/27/ibm_age_discrimination_emails/ IBM settles discrimination case that emailed executives • The Register