“A group of ex-employees filed a lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of failing to comply with a law requiring companies to disclose the ages of people over 40 who have been laid off. The suit also alleges that the company has improperly prevented workers from combining to challenge their ousters.
“IBM against one person is not a fair fight,” said David Webbert, an Augusta, Maine, lawyer who, together with his partner, Jeffrey Young, and a Washington-based law firm, filed the new case. “IBM against thousands of people who’ve been laid off because of their age, that’s a legitimate legal proceeding.
“IBM is afraid of a fair fight,” Webbert said.”
The case is perhaps the first of its kind to allege that a waiver of rights should be invalidated specifically because of improper layoff deographic reporting under OWBPA, according to attorney Jeffrey Neil Young. He represents the IBM workers and is a partner at Johnson, WEbbert & Young, LLP.
This is a novel suit,” Young said. “And to be clear about it, for aproximately 14 years, IBM did provide this information to indibiduals who were let go from 2001 to 2014”
“The real issue in this case is that the employees have a right to proceed as a group,” Young said. The
company likely concealed the demographic information to hide that it was targeting older employees
in layoffs, he said.
“It’s a very suspicious thing for a large company to stop complying with a federal law that they were complying with for over a decade,” Webbert said.
Meanwhile, the new IBM waiver bars workers from joining together to fight the company in court or through arbitration, lawyers say.
But it’s very hard for an individual employee to bring a case against a large company like IBM, and for most laid-off workers, “the only chance you have of winning is to come together and pool your resources,” Webbert said. “That’s why they (IBM) said you can’t bring a collective action.”
“IBM’s strategy flouting the OWBPA’s mandated disclosures of key evidence of possible age discrimination is a brazen attempt to cover up its flagrant and widespread discrimination against older workers,” Young said.
“By filing this lawsuit, we are sending IBM the message that its openly lawless and deceptive behavior must stop now,” said David Webbert, co-counsel and Partner at Johnson, Webbert & Young, LLP in Maine.
Furthermore, Webbert added, while the Supreme Court has upheld the rights of employers to require disputes be resolved through arbitration, the plaintiffs are not against arbitration. They simply don’t want to fight the multi-billion corporation alone.
“IBM’s strategy—flouting the OWBPA’s mandated disclosures of key evidence of possible age discrimination—is a brazen attempt to cover up its flagrant and widespread discrimination against older workers,” Jeffrey Neil Young, a partner at Johnson Webbert in Portland and Augusta, Maine, said in the news release.