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IBM battles to settle yet more age discrimination claims

While accused of already breaking terms of an earlier deal

IBM is preparing to settle yet more age discrimination and wage theft complaints against the IT giant, though in one instance where it has already done so, Big Blue is accused of failing to comply with the terms of its settlement agreement.

Back in 2018, IBM was in the headlines, accused of deliberately trying to get rid of older workers and replace them with younger Millennials. Two years later, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concluded [PDF] that IBM's defense of its decisions – that was just a coincidence if its layoffs seemingly primarily targeted the over-40s – "does not withstand scrutiny" and that "there is reasonable cause to believe that [IBM] has discriminated against [employees] on the basis of age."

Numerous lawsuits alleging age discrimination have followed, as well as lawsuits alleging that the mainframe goliath capped or withheld sales commissions, sometimes in conjunction with race, gender, or age discrimination. Nonetheless, IBM has consistently denied that it engaged in systematic age discrimination, as chief human resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux declared in February.

At the same time, Big Blue has been settling many of these cases, such as Lohnn v. IBM, Langley v. IBM, Schenfeld v. IBM, Iacano v. IBM [PDF], Keebaugh v. IBM [PDF], and VanDeWeghe vs. IBM [PDF].

Then there's Kingston v. IBM, a case that made it to trial and resulted in an $11.1 million verdict against the company, plus almost $3 million in attorney fees and other damages, for racial discrimination and wage theft. The jury's award of $6 million in non-economic damages was subsequently vacated on appeal, though the plaintiff's legal team aims to have that portion of the award reinstated.

Now more of these lawsuits have been put on hold so settlements can be worked out. Last month, in Wagner v. IBM [PDF], an age discrimination claim, the attorneys for the plaintiffs and for IBM asked the judge to stay the proceedings [PDF] because "the parties have reached a tentative resolution in this matter…" They intend to notify the court by November 8, 2022 whether they've mutually agreed to a dismissal.

A similar letter [PDF] was presented to the judge last month in Rusis v. IBM, another age discrimination case. Again, the parties intend to update the court by November 8, 2022 about whether they've reached a deal or wish to continue litigating.

In August, the attorneys involved in Comin v. IBM [PDF], one of at least 29 such lawsuits in which the technology titan is accused of withholding promised sales commissions, asked the judge in a joint motion [PDF] to preliminarily approve a proposed class-action settlement.

The proposed settlement would pay class members – California-based IBM salespeople working on a commission plan between November 4, 2015 and the settlement date – $300, even if their commissions were never capped. Those whose commissions were capped would receive about half their disputed commission from whatever amount remains of a $4,750,000 fund after the distribution of the $300 payments, a penalty payment, and two $10,000 payments to the two named plaintiffs. The proposed settlement also calls for IBM to pay attorneys' fees of no more than about $1,600,000.

A similar case involving an IBM salesperson alleging age discrimination, Leong v. IBM [PDF], was dismissed [PDF] in July when the parties agreed to resolve the case. Apparently, a settlement was agreed to but hasn't been adhered to: on Monday, the attorneys representing the plaintiff asked the judge who oversaw the case "to issue an order compelling compliance with IBM’s obligations under the terms of the parties' settlement, and awarding plaintiff [redacted] attorneys’ fees, and costs as a sanction for breaching the terms of the settlement." ®

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