IBM Ageism Lawsuit Closed Before Trial

A Texas court has closed a long-running case against IBM over allegations of age discrimination.

That case, Jonathan Langley vs. International Business Machines Corporation, has been dismissed “by joint stipulation,” although the notice (PDF) makes no specific mention of a settlement. Langley claimed that IBM had fired him due to his age after more than 25 years at the company. (Hat tip to The Register for the link.)

“Had Mr. Langley been younger, and especially if he had been a millennial, IBM would not have fired him,” the original lawsuit claimed. During the course of the case, in a deposition uncovered by Bloomberg, former IBM Vice President of Human Resources Alan Wild suggested that the company had fired as many as 100,000 employees “over the past several years” in order to make its workforce seem younger.

When news of the lawsuit leaked during summer 2019, IBM officially responded by saying that it had been “reinvented” over the past few years “to target higher value opportunities for our clients.” It also insisted that “the company hires 50,000 employees each year.” 

A separate class-action suit, brought against IBM in federal court, argues that the company began firing “older professionals” as early as 2014, in a bid to “correct its seniority mix.” The lawsuit argued that such behavior violates the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) of 1990. And that’s just one example of similar legal action against the company.

“We are currently representing about 150 IBM employees who are claiming they lost their jobs because of age discrimination,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, a partner at Lichten & Liss-Riordan, PC, in Boston, recently wrote in an email to The Register. “A number of them have opted into our federal lawsuit, and a number of them are pursuing their claims through individual arbitration.”

According to crowdsourced data from levels.fyi, IBM pays its senior software engineers less than their professional colleagues at other big tech firms such as Microsoft and Apple. 

In an analysis of entry-level software engineer compensation, IBM also fell behind other companies on that end of the career spectrum, as well. 

But that’s not the whole story. IBM is willing to pay generously for the right mix of skills and experience. For example, professionals who specialize in machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.) have received sizable packages. No matter what the circumstances, it seems, knowledge of a “hot” technology or skillset can pay big dividends.