back to article It's Becoming Messy: Judge says IBM's request to shut down age-discrimination lawsuit should be rejected

A judge's recommendation to reject IBM's bid to dismiss an age discrimination claim raises the likelihood that the case could go to trial – and puts pressure on the IT titan to settle. In 2018, plaintiff Jonathan Langley sued IBM in the US, alleging that he had been unfairly laid off as a cloud salesperson at the age of 60 …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    281 cases settled

    I think that makes it pretty much certain that there is an issue with age discrimination at IBM.

    I hope the case does go to trial and that IBM loses, but now that seems unlikely.

    1. paulf Silver badge

      Re: 281 cases settled

      Unfortunately the story about the 281 cases doesn't say, but I bet the settlements were on the basis of "No admission of wrongdoing" or similar. That settlement may not be admissible evidence in court against IBM but it can only show them in a bad light. If you have done nothing wrong why settle so many claims, indeed any claims at all?

      I think this, in the third paragraph from end, is instructive: ""I believe IBM is at significant risk," said Musell.". I can only hope the guy in question is swayed more by the potential $$$$$$$$$$ from punitive damages at trial, not to mention the pleasure at opening the floodgates to many more cases and claims, than the $$$$ IBM's Lawyer department will try to offer him to settle.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 281 cases settled

        I bet the settlements were on the basis of "No admission of wrongdoing" or similar.

        So do I.

        Because a company can settle and then publicly deny the factor that lead them to settle I think they get into a habit of thinking that this applies to any dispute that went against them. Maybe this is why we then get companies continuing to deny an actual decision that went against them.

  2. JassMan Silver badge
    Trollface

    No title required

    "According to Austin's report, "the numerous public and internal statements of IBM’s CEO and CFO expressing the need for the company to 'refresh' its workforce" raises the question of whether Langley's supervisors were guided by that directive when telling subordinates to cut staff."

    The court has completely misunderstood. When top brass say refresh the workforce it just means they are considering offering free cold drinks and massages to oveworked staff</sarcasm>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No title required

      Oddly enough, IBM does now have free cold drinks (Coke products) at some sites in North America. I'm waiting on the free massages, though.

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: No title required

        There won't be a happy ending...

        I'll get my coat.

      2. fredesmite Bronze badge

        Re: No title required

        I worked at IBM in Austin back in the AIX days ...NOTHING WAS FREE. Not even coffee.

  3. MrReal Bronze badge

    IBM has long got rid of experienced staff in favour of new clueless people who haven''t a clue about business and technology.

    It's a very odd strategy that has lost IBM huge amounts of market share, research, business and money.

    I suppose we should expect that from the company who bungled the PC and lost to Microsoft's inferior OS after creating OS/2.

    1. Steve Kerr

      This is what happens when the accountants take over and they play to the market for short term gain.

      I'm surprised the venture capitalists aren't starting to circle IBM to asset strip it

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I'm surprised the venture capitalists aren't starting to circle IBM to asset strip it"

        Are you sure they're not?

    2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
      Happy

      IBM has long got rid of experienced staff in favour of new clueless people who haven''t a clue about business and technology

      At the end of the day there are still a lot of companies who are willing to "go to bed" with IBM and happily get f*cked.

  4. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Can we have a popcorn icon please?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good. For cases like this it's ALWAYS better to have it go to trial. If there is legitimate basis for the decision the company can prove it and demonstrate to the world it was moral, ethical and upstanding (all the things IBM says it is) - if there isn't, it's shown to be at fault, the plaintiff gets what they deserve (a chunky payout) and the company is forced to change its practices which works out better for future employees.

    Allowing a settlement means the decision will be taken behind closed doors and there will be no consequences for the company as no admission of fault; as well as forever tainting the plaintiff in an unfavorable (and unemployable) light.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Settling out of court is an implicit admission in a case like this that there is something rotten. Discrimination claims are not easy to prove and if the documentation is done right there is nothing written to use in a claim. The problem for I've Been Molested is they said they need 'to refresh' their workforce. A statement that seriously implies age discrimination as refreshing implies upper managlement wants to have a hipper, younger workforce.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        An implicit admission isn't worth the paper it's not written on. In particular it can't be used against them when the next claim comes up.

  6. Erik4872

    Hope it goes to trial

    If this superstar rainmaker salesperson settles for a replacement 401k (i.e. a few million) from IBM, then unfortunately the whole case will get swept under the rug like all the other settled ones. Here's hoping he and his attorneys are willing to go the distance.

    Age discrimination is going to be a killer, especially as automation and AI or whatever starts killing knowledge work. We're already being expected to work longer and save more money...but if companies are still in love with the abusable new grads by the time we get laid off never to find work again, that's not good. I've seen lots of people laid off in their 50s, years from any ability to access their retirement money or social security, with zero interest from employers for even basic work. Extend that out to more and more people competing for fewer jobs -- allowing companies to have another reason to reject people won't be good.

    What we need is an enforceable law, with real teeth, that can't be watered down or worked around by companies through surreptitious means. Settlements don't set legal precedent because companies can just "admit no wrongdoing."

  7. GeekyDee

    IBM's sole defense is its claim that age was not a factor in its decision to dismiss Langley.

    "Honest, your Honor, it wasn't about age, it was about the bottom line and making us more money and bigger bonuses."

  8. PJ H
    IT Angle

    Water Vapour Vendor...

    "a cloud salesperson"

    A *what*?

  9. fredesmite Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    Why is CEO Ginni Rometty still there ?

    Her model expired decades ago

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