back to article IBM ordered to pay £22k to whistleblower and told by judges: Teach your managers what discrimination means

IBM has been ordered to pay £22,000 in compensation and two years' salary to a Brit staffer who blew the whistle on unlawful working practices within the company – only for infuriated managers to lash out at her. Reading Employment Tribunal awarded Dawn Davidsen compensation and ordered that she be reinstated in her job after …

      1. EBG

        you may be right

        M&A has always looked to me to be a 24/7 role.

        I've got a head hunter on my case, and need to decide this weekend whether to go for 1 last big payday before retirement. It's a director position. Or not, do I still have the drive and energy? One thing I can't reasonably do is take the job and then tell them I want to work strictly 9-5.

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Good for Davidson

    But really, to go back to her desk and look forward to working with those four assholes - I wouldn't want to have to do that.

    And besides, work calls actually scheduled for Saturday mornings ? What the blazes is that ?

    If, as a manager, you can't get your work done weekdays from 8 to 8, then you're useless as a manager. Obviously, there can be exceptions, but if you have to wrap up your week every Saturday morning, then you're doing something wrong.

    Monday mornings is supposed to be the time for the weekly pep talk, not Saturday.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good for Davidson

      You've obviously not met certain types of consultancy management.

      New opportunity developement, improvement plans, reviews and other non-directly billable activities often get squeezed so much that they can only be done outside working hours.

      This is hardly ever mandated, but with your client, your team members and your bosses all looking over your shoulder it all needs doing.

      Anon because obviously.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good for Davidson

      "But really, to go back to her desk"

      Hopefully it's at home

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Good for Davidson

      "And besides, work calls actually scheduled for Saturday mornings ? What the blazes is that ?"

      Sadly it's the norm these days. You have a so-called "smart" phone with you at all times, therefore the corporation is allowed to contact you about work matters whenever they like.

      Back in the day, those of us with expensive pagers got a stipend for each and every minute we were required to be at the Corporate beck and call off work hours. Cell phones upped the anti ... and the amount of the stipend. The folks issued with electronic leashes were smart and didn't allow the company to walk all over us.

      Nowadays, with so-called "smart" phones being cheap as chips, any idiot can have one. And so they do. And corporations world-wide are taking advantage of the sheeple. Sad, isn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good for Davidson

        Well, here's the next phone feature: mark numbers as "work" and restrict the time the phone will signal it's receiving a call or a message thereof. Ditto with email.

        I must look into a way to make work accounts signal "out of office" for a specific list of email senders. Anyone good with Postfix? :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good for Davidson

          Might be worth looking at this

          I was googing for this earlier today and came across, so I can't vouch for it but seems reasonable.

      2. Martin

        Re: Good for Davidson

        "And besides, work calls actually scheduled for Saturday mornings ? What the blazes is that ?"

        Sadly it's the norm these days.

        No. It may be the norm in the US (though I doubt it.) It may be the norm to contact people about work issues on Saturday mornings (though, again, it depends on the sort of job). But to schedule a regular review call on a Saturday morning would cause an outcry in any office in the UK. They'd basically just say "No." And so they damn well should.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good for Davidson

      It's sadly pretty normal for weekend work at consultancies. She's fortunate that women working on Saturdays in a sueable offence.

  2. David Austin

    What absolute arses

    IBM sounds a horrid place to work, and a horrible supplier to use, with management showing equal contempt for both.

    Disappointed The Register didn't try and get a contrite statement out of an IBM Spokesface. Love to see how's they'd try and spin and brush this one off.

  3. Lee D

    "with the practices including work calls scheduled for 8am on Saturdays"

    The phrase there is "Sorry, I'm not contracted to work Saturdays". I've used it many times. If someone wants to sack me for that, that's on them - it'll cost them big and I'll be happy to just leave such a company and then sue them to oblivion.

    And no. "Any other reasonable..." clauses do not automatically include unpaid overtime without negotiation on uncontracted days. And when you want those, the magic phrase there is "negotiation". My position will consist of "It's a weekend, I'll charge you ten times more per hour with a £1000 charge for the first hour" and we'll start negotiations there.

    I don't understand why companies think such things are necessary. Even an international company - 8am on Saturday in the UK is what? 1am in the US? You'd have to be talking to someone in a Pacific Island late on a Friday their end for it to be 8am on a Saturday in the UK. It's just unnecessary, unless it's an absolute critical emergency and then my question would be why do you only have guys in the UK capable of handling your emergencies?

    This is just toxic-workplaceism.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm not sure where you've been working, but every professional/executive level private sector job I've ever had came with a contract that states my working hours are whatever time is necessary to deliver the work the business may require of me, that I opt out of the working time directive and that there's no such thing as paid overtime.

      In my experience it's simply a fact that if you want a high flying career then your employer is going to own your life 24/7.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        France recently (last year?) brought into law the right to disconnect. When you're an employee, you go home, turn the work phone off, and that's that.

        There are exceptions, if you're important and all hell has just broken loose... but by and large it is probably a response to the shit that used to fly, like giving employees their own laptops and a pile of work to do, with the cute phrase "you can just finish that when you get home" (in other words, unpaid and on your own time). This for employees on forfeit (fixed seven hour days) that already start at half eight and finish at six with an hour for lunch...

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Every employer in the last years has had my private phone number and my permission to call me in an emergency. I’ve had one call in the last five years, Saturday 4pm to 8pm, with one colleague and four guys quite high up with a customer in the call. Major contract depending on the result, and it got signed Monday morning. That’s an emergency.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Yes, but that's a company that recognises the difference.

            I had one contract with someone who thought it entirely appropriate to call me on Saturdays and Sundays to discuss the coming week's work. Strangely, he was upset that my next bill showed that as recorded overtime (the joy of iPhone call records in CSV format is that it provides nice evidence :) ).

            I have absolutely no problems with an emergency, that's simply life, but someone taking the mick is not going to do that for long. I still work to live, not the other way around.

        2. Tilda Rice

          Angry techies/small people everywhere.

          It depends on your role, and your aspirations.

          When you reach a certain level, you are available. If you are 9-5 M-F task worker, different. But an exec/senior mgr different. If you're getting a salary approaching or north of 100k, you have to accept you are going to have to do whatever it takes, whenever that is. Or take a lower paid job/lesser role.

          This default "tell em, thats my hours and you can stuff it" sounds like a juvenile reponse. But its El Reg comments section... so Linux FTW, M$ hrhr.

          1. AdamWill

            "If you're getting a salary approaching or north of 100k, you have to accept you are going to have to do whatever it takes, whenever that is."

            No, you don't.

            Source: me.

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              I'm not worth it

              I long ago realised that the amount of money a company would have to pay me to work 9 to 5 in central London was way more than I'd be worth. (I am wonderful, just not that wonderful.).

              (When I worked, I am currently a 'gentleman of leisure', my phone got switched off at the end of the working day, before I went home.)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Tilda Rice

            You sound like HR. Maybe you are HR.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Real emergencies and management created "emergencies"

          One of the main reasons IBM forced me out the door (which I'm not sorry for) was being at the dentist on a Sunday with excrucating pain rather than dealing with an entirely management created "emergency" - a broken project slipping faster than ... well, you can fill that in.

          I never had any problem working any time 24/7 for a real emergency, but one created by management incompetence and intransigence are another matter.

      2. Warm Braw Silver badge

        if you want a high flying career then your employer is going to own your life

        I'd rather assumed that a high-flying career would be one in which you had some kind of autonomy. It makes my depth-plumbing career sound quite attractive by comparison.

      3. Lee D

        "working hours are whatever time is necessary to deliver the work the business may require of me"

        UK. You're an idiot to sign that.

        A contract that REQUIRES you to opt out of working time directives is actually illegal.

        Half a dozen workplaces over 10+ years, plus 10+ years of self-employment. I have never worked a weekend in my life. I have worked late nights, and worked one Sunday when the shit hit the fan, and then got MORE time off than one day in lieu, but I didn't begrudge that and it was so important that "my contract" didn't come into my consideration of that. Never worked a single hour of unpaid overtime, in fact never worked more than 10+ hours of overtime in total in all that time.

        If that's the way you want to run your life, fine. But no company can force you to have such a contract, or make you opt out of working time (that's LITERALLY the point of that law!), or force you to work uncompensated.

        If you choose to, fine. But your contract is literally illegal if it says that, and if it doesn't say it then you can't be sacked for not doing it.

        The closest that the vast, vast majority of the people get in such things is an "As reasonably required..." which legally means "It's 5:01pm but we had to clean something up, so you can't just drop tools and walk out because it's past 5:00pm", not "you must work Saturdays uncompensated".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Never worked more than 10 hours of overtime? Pffff. I can do that in 1 day.

      4. hmv


        If it's an emergency, it's necessary. If it's a scheduled meeting for a status update, it's not necessary.

        1. jfollows

          Agreed - when I worked for IBM UK 1984-2008 I would attend meetings and so on outside normal working hours when required, if warranted.

          However I then got an invite to a weekly conference call with some "US big cheese" at something like 7pm every Tuesday evening. I felt able to decline and said something like "my commitment to IBM does not extend to a weekly meeting at 7pm", but others in different circumstances may have not felt able to do so.

          I don't think this was anything special to do with IBM, it's just bad practice and I can report that my stance was supported by my managers and colleagues at the time.

          Still, it's interesting to read about this particular case now that I no longer work for IBM. Definitely not the company I joined in 1984.

      5. nematoad Silver badge

        Then more fool you.

        Personally I worked to live, I did not live to work. Give it another 25 years and you might have second thoughts.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          I concur. However I also recognise that a very high salary comes with very high expectations. If I need to stay on a call to our team in California until 1am, then I need to stay on the call. If I'm up at 3am on Monday morning to brief the team in Malaysia, it's an early start on Monday.

          What matters is work/life balance. I might be up at 3am, I might even still be working at 1am. I'll have had a four hour lunch break in-between and there's a good chance I'll be available via email only on Thursday, and expect delays even then.

          If I want 9-5 security with no responsibility then I can only expect a 9-5 no responsibility wage.

      6. Triggerfish

        Erm major emergency yes I'm cool with that, project run also (we cover odd hrs so part of job).

        Day to day normal operation are you kidding me? My CEO and company owner both would be asking WTF am I thinking pulling in staff for that.

      7. Binraider Silver badge

        Yeah, I've seen such contracts. Our staff grades aren't subject to this (and quite a few staff earn more than managers); however managerial contracts often are WTD-opt out, no overtime and turn up wherever you're told to turn up.

        Strangely enough, I'm quite content working on my terms, protected by collective bargaining and on better pay and hours than people alledgedly one or two "ranks" higher than myself.

      8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


        "In my experience it's simply a fact that if you want a high flying career then your employer is going to own your life 24/7."

        Theres a word for that "Slave"

        Currently its not a popular word

      9. katrinab Silver badge

        You can opt back into the working time directive, and they can’t sack you for that.

      10. Sherrie Ludwig

        @AC, found the problem.

        If "a high flying career" requires 24/7 devotion to a job, and total availability at every whim, it isn't a job, you have been bought into slavery. You may be a harem eunuch with a cushy lot of duties and plenty to eat, but a slave nonetheless.

  4. Terry 6 Silver badge

    It does sound like "We pay you, we own you".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That may be true in the US but it doesn't quite work like that in Europe.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You want Equality? You get Equality.

    But it turns out what you really want is special treatment instead. Do none of these children have fathers? Or were they merely a means to an end and the children are now just another tool to be used to ensure the mother's "equality" is just preferential treatment with a thin veneer for respectability?

    I do not have a problem with people having equal pay and equal working conditions for doing the same work. I do have a problem with people demanding "equal rights" but then coming up with all sorts of exceptions that benefit them but cannot apply to everyone else, equally. That is not equality.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

      Back in your hole, troglodyte.

      There's plenty of actual legal precedent. She was simply warning IBM that they would be likely (in fact, certain) to lose in court, and maybe obeying the law might be a good idea.

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

        I object to the use of the term troglodyte in this context.


    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

      When the majority of men do 50% of ALL the child care and domestic chores, you will have a point.

      Until then, shut up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

        Indeed - and that's a point made in the mandatory D&I trainingI've recently been refreshing on - we have a variety of mandatory training that's periodic, not "do it once and then forget about it".

        It sounds like this woman was doing the right thing - alerting her employers to the fact that they were engaged in indirect discrimination and it could be costly. Any sensible employer would have said "thank you, have a gold star" - and made sure that those responsible got training in how to avoid it going forward.

        But I guess this is the problem, the managers concerned didn't pass this up the chain, but instead took it as an insult (and possibly threat). My guess is that they hid it from their management and set out on this course to cover their backsides. As already mentioned, I hope higher management will have taken the hint and dealt with these twits (substitute a different vowel if you like).

        But seeing all the stories about how IBM (or people who work for them) seems to behave, it does rather suggest an ingrained corporate culture that's going to take some turning around IFsenior management even try.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

        Oh, fuck you. The percentage of child care and household domestic work that I do (or do not do) is between my partner and I, not you or society. It's up to US to make that decision, in our own little microcosm. To suggest that somehow society as a whole should be able to judge an individual family based on that family's agreed upon division of workload is incredibly offensive.

        1. AdamWill

          Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

          That's not what they "suggested", though. They "suggested" that as long as the division of childcare and other domestic work is documented to be substantially unequal at a national scale, the legal point that scheduling work events outside of contracted work hours has the effect of indirect gender discrimination holds.

          This has nothing to do with anybody "judging" you or your partner.

      3. Juillen 1

        Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

        Quite a lot of men do more than 50% of the child care, especially in cases where the woman is the breadwinner (my brother is in exactly that situation, as was my godmother's family, and quite a few other I know).

        What you're essentially saying is that because a majority of men don't do this, then nobody should judge things on a case by case basis, which is complete bollocks.

        The most common distribution of families is to have a primary breadwinner, and now it's pretty much necessary to have a second income due to housing costs (which only rose because people started having second incomes to afford the nice houses, so the market rapidly adapted).

        Your statement says that there should be no nuance. If the woman is a breadwinner, and has a partner who is the second income, she should still have all the benefits of being that second income (i.e. at whim access to family and the ability to not meet the standard to which an arbitrary neutral person would be held to). If the breadwinner is a man, then they do not get recourse to this.

        It really is that simple. Men, by and large, sacrifice family time to work and provide. The really successful women I know also follow that model; they've sacrificed quite a bit of family time in order to hold down the top jobs (which they can do marvellously).

        Some have chosen to step back from the high powered roles in order to have the family time they desire, even if they've been a primary breadwinner. They just get by on lesser pay and a lower rated job, where the hours and calls fit what life flexibililty they way.

        Saying "Group B is more affected than Group A, because group B chooses to do something a particular way" is discriminatory in itself.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

      “ Do none of these children have fathers? ”

      Yes, some do, but the point about indirect discrimination is that it affects one group more than another.

      1. Juillen 1

        Re: You want Equality? You get Equality.

        Because one group chooses to do something. Well, nice. What you're saying is that the _choice_ of one group (and it is a choice, as evidenced by the many high powered women who sacrifice family time for the high powered roles, and the many who step back because they choose family life over work life, which is also a perfectly fine thing to do) to engage in a particular activity in a particular way should mean that rules that apply to another should not apply to them. Even if the second group also made a choice to engage in that same activity in the same way, they would be denied that flexibility, simply by nature of not belonging to that first group.

        If you don't see the direct discrimination in that, then I really don't think you've considered it carefully.

        It also seems you think indirect discrimination of one group is more important that direct discrimination of another.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So the contents of the petty cash tin then

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 22K


      If it had been a US court they might have mandated annual ethics training for IBM.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just wish I'd done my SAR request a lot sooner

    After I got screwed over a job I'd been doing just fine for 10 years with no complaints from users. Was contracting all that time then the job became available to apply. Interview went really well yet I still didn't get it. Their excuses varied because the people that were in the interview and HR couldn't make up their minds on the reason I didn't get it. Glad I recording the HR meeting and their bullshit and their accidentally telling me one of the real reasons I didn't get it "Money".

    I then, stupidly, waited 2 years before I did my SAR request because I stupidly didn't want to blacklist myself there in case I could go back. Conveniently that "couldn't find any e-mails I was requesting", yet magically still had e-mails before the dates I requested. So gave me e-mails I never requested in the hope I'd go away.

    Arseholes. Turns out I'm better off now where I am anyway. If done early enough that SAR would of exposed quite a bit. Shame.

    1. MCMLXV

      would of

      Would of have - with that grammar they're better off without you!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Just wish I'd done my SAR request a lot sooner

      Lesson learned. Keep your own copies of emails.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Just wish I'd done my SAR request a lot sooner

        Indeed. Back in my 9-5 career, I very much enjoyed thwacking manglement over the heads with large piles of paper-trail.

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