back to article Age discrimination case against IBM leaks emails, docs via bad redaction

An IBM age discrimination lawsuit filed in Texas last year has become a bit less opaque after The Register found an inadequately redacted court document that discusses plans to present evidence obtained from company emails and documents. The case involves 16 former Big Blue employees who claim "IBM’s highest executives created …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    The old tricks

    Older workers know all the tricks managers use to extract value from workers and spit them out once they are past their use by date (approaching mid 30s).

    It's much easier to scare a young worker into an unpaid overtime or make them do more work than they should.

    Young workers also think they have infinite time so they are less likely think long term about their future, because "they will have time for that".

    When the whole team is young, just make sure everyone goes to a pub after they finish at 7pm. They'll have a "good" time and think everyone is in the same boat and such grind is completely normal.

    Or maybe this is just my imagination?

    1. UdoGoetz

      Re: The old tricks

      There are some companies around who value "old age", highly skilled engineers. I know of one search engine behemoth who does.

      IBM shoots itself in both of their feet by laying off their highly experienced talent.

      It seems they want to go to die and a fully young staff will facilitate corporate death.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The old tricks

        ...and the bean counters decide who goes, sometimes leaving the company with a complete lack of support for some older products that only the "old fogies" remember. Any organisation the size of IBM is certainly still relying on code that was written many years ago and will almost certainly need support as new systems are interfaced to it.

    2. Plest Bronze badge

      Re: The old tricks

      As I'm just about to reach my 5th decade on this wonderful ball of rock I find that age does indeed equate to wisdom. "One day you'll be older and wiser and you'll realise I was right.", now coming to fruition. One of the best presents you get as you get older is that wonderful feeling that you can see some things coming a mile off, some good and some bad.

      Being young has that wonderful innocence, that feeling that you have all the time in the world and somehow you're immortal, a great feeling and I envy the younger, stupid me sometimes but there's no time like the here and now. I've done some ridiculous, almost stupid life threatening things in my life, but the older I get the more I realise I regret almost nothing, well maybe I should have bough Apple or MS shares around 1988!

      Here's to the joy of being an old geezer in training!

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: The old tricks

        Reaching your fifth decade: I wish I could remember that. ;-)

        Your post reinforces the phrase that you cannot put an old head on young shoulders. One thing I did around your age, that I am very proud of, is I began to think of my retirement really seriously. I had a company pension, but I knew the more money I could save the more comfortable my pension would be when it came.

        I was right. And would strongly recommend the same to anyone. You don't want to be 65 or 70 and still not have an idea of when you can really afford to retire. After all my motivation to work was not for 'them' but so that one day I wouldn't need to. That day has come and I'm a happy bunny.

        1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: The old tricks

          Doing exactly that right now.. we don't have kids so it is way easier to save money, so we want to take early retirement.

        2. SuperGeek

          Re: The old tricks

          @RegGuy1: Indeed. I'm 36 and as well as my employer paying in, and me paying for both my employer job and my business, I'm also putting £15 a week into my pot from earnings off my own back.

          I'll thank myself when I retire, hopefully. Young whippersnappers, don't leave it too late! Especially with the state of State pensions in the UK (Ha, see what I did there?)

          I'll get my coat....

        3. Anne-Lise Pasch

          Re: The old tricks

          Too true.

          I'd also add:

          1. Get on the property ladder as early as possible

          2. Overpay your mortgage within the 'free' bounds of your mortgage.

          2 paid-off houses at 55 is better than any pension.

      2. jason_derp Bronze badge

        Re: The old tricks

        "One day you'll be older and wiser and you'll realise I was right.“

        Very helpful, lots of applicable stuff hidden away in there.

        My adage has always been" When I was younger I used to think everybody who was older was an idiot. Now that I'm older, I think I'm an idiot, too."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The old tricks

          I've never once thought my younger self would know more than my older self. If I did, I would be oblivious to problem solving.

          I couldn't walk, I solved that problem. I couldn't read, I solved that problem.... (way down the time line)... I couldn't dance... well I'm still working on that :-/

    3. Horridbloke

      Re: The old tricks

      Probably not down the pub, IBM used to be a bit funny about employees and alcohol. Back in the nineties some college friends of mine applying for industrial placement years with IBM were expected to supply information about their drinking habits.

      Icon because I don't work for IBM and hope never to have to.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The old tricks

        Yeah, I hear IBM had Quaker roots, and they had a real down on alcohol, friend of mine went to one of their sites and was devastated they were "dry" lol

        This was like in the 80's-90's in the white shirt, black tie, suits era, could be they have mellowed since

      2. Ken G

        Re: The old tricks

        That's odd, back in the 90's some former colleagues used to get a litre of wine at the IBM canteen in La Gaude.

      3. spold

        Re: The old tricks

        IBM Hursley supported (through its employees) two village pubs, and the IBM Club was open every day lunchtimes and evening for drinkies. Most "proper" decisions were made at these venues through networking. I got a great new higher grade role at one of them. IBM La Defense in Paris had wine vending machines.IBM La Hulpe education centre near Brussels had an impressive bar featuring a great selection of beers, and the one near Stockholm had a help-yourself bar.

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: The old tricks

      Some companies value experience both learned outside the organization and within. They do not mind a few grey hairs, bald spots, wrinkles, etc. They will hire someone who 50+. The problem is most older workers have family and other social responsibilities and cannot work 12+ hrs/7 days a week for months on end which Silly Valley thinks is wise. In fact, I wonder how much crappy code gets out the door because the staff is exhausted and cannot think straight. Code that rested staff would spot as problematic and fix or never write in the first place because they are thinking straight.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The old tricks

        Four-day week 'an overwhelming success' in Iceland

        "Trials of a four-day week in Iceland were an "overwhelming success" and led to many workers moving to shorter hours, researchers have said.

        The trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019.

        Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: The old tricks

          Yeah, give anyone a 20% raise and they'll be happier....

          1. Ken G
            Big Brother

            Re: The old tricks

            Not necessarily and not for long. I really don't look for the most money when taking a new job (that's not just a line for the recruiter) but also how it fits in with my family and limited social life. If you give me more money then I'll be happier when I see the next payslip but quickly begin asking "what have you done for me lately" whereas more time with my family (or away from my family, depending on my mood) is a gift that keeps on giving. I also prefer to get a job done as quickly as possible and then leave, rather than put in the hours.

  2. G Mac
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

    If there were any, maybe they can offer their services (at a suitable compensation level).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

      Technically they're not supposed to hire former resources as contractors for 2 years from date of severance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

        "resources"? «vomits»

        You mean people. Never forget that. People, like you and me, and everyone (well, mostly everyone) here.

        Don't use manglement newspeak when speaking to other human beings (people, even ;-) ). Keep calling the personnel department the personnel department, no matter how much it might rile them or how much they try to forget that it's people, usually hard working people, and with a need to keep a roof over their head, that they are dealing with.

        (A different AC)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

          "Keep calling the personnel department the personnel department,"

          I knew someone who kept calling it "Human Remains" for more or less the same reason.

        2. jason_derp Bronze badge

          Re: I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

          Hmm. It's not "human people", it's "human resources". If it was that big of deal to treat meatspace occupiers as mere resources, I think workers would have said or done something about it by now. Right?

          Either that or there's some kind of systemic oppression of the rights and freedoms of workers in North Ameri. I've been told many times that capitalism makes that impossible. Soooooo.. . . . .

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

          I remember they're people, I'm one of them, but I was a resource to be actioned then and all IBM hiring (and firing) rules are for resources, not people.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder how many email system old-hands were in the discard bucket?

      Ding, ding, ding! This is the root cause of the email disaster.

  3. Ace2


    “Neglecting to at least make an effort”

    American MBA management at its best

  4. W.S.Gosset Silver badge


    Ummm... does not leaking the intentionally-redacted text run the risk of undermining the employees' court action?

    i.e., has this article done them a disservice?

    1. Mongrel

      Re: Prejudice?

      IANAL but follow a couple on YouTube

      If the item in question has been filed with the court, and not been specifically made private, then it's accessible by anyone who can log in and pay the fee.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: Prejudice?

        Yeah that was my understanding.

        Point is, it HAD been intentionally made private. Only there was a cock-up technically. And the _point_ of the redaction was not to prejudice the matter/bugger the case.

        So my question/head-scratching/concern remains. Yes, a great scoop, journalistically. But...?

        1. Mongrel

          Re: Prejudice?

          I'd say it sucks but it's entirely the fault of the lawyers (or their minions) who mucked it up. That's the documentation they presented to the courts, it was their duty & professional responsibility to ensure that it was redacted properly.

          As for the point of redaction, again not a lawyer but happy to be corrected, it's not about prejudice it's about controlling the information your opponent sees. They ask for all information concerning X,Y & Z, there's some pre-trial 'negotiating' about what is & isn't relevant and the court orders them to hand over the X & Z information. If they foolishly include Y in the information packet, that's on them. If their opponent doesn't ask for A & B (which is where the juicy stuff is) that's the opponents problem, they're not under any obligation to hand it over or even mention its existence

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward IBM Vice President admits that neglecting to at least make an effort to transfer at least a few of the soon-to-be-laid-off IBM employees....

    Seen this first hand, and more than once. Open places suddenly disappearing, even people in the middle of on-boarding to new accounts are suddenly left in limbo (and mysteriously the requirement 'goes away' for a period of time, at least long enough to ensure the person involved is let go).

    The IBM of today is a shadow of the IBM of yester-year.

    1. UdoGoetz

      Whoever is talented and still with IBM should try to jump ship ASAP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Most of us left years ago.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    A recognised general practice

    Scott Adams summed this up very well over two decades back. In one strip the Pointy Haired Boss explains that he loves hiring temps as they get no benefits and you can chuck them in the dumpster when they're no longer needed. To Dilbert's remonstrance that it seems "a bit inappropriate", he responds "they're way too big to flush".

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: A recognised general practice


    2. XIbmcontractor

      Re: A recognised general practice

      About two years ago, we had an all-staff meeting with the Head of marketing, Veronika, who when asked if contractors might be offered jobs full-time told us in no uncertain terms that our value to IBM was our expendability. During that time, people were told to move to one of six cities (at their own expense and with no job guarantee) or they wouldn’t have their job. They were not being laid off, but were actually “not showing up on location” and therefore no longer employed. Coincidentally, there were numerous HR PPTs that discussed bringing fresh new talent and ideas into the organization.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A recognised general practice

        Unfortunately no fresh new talent with new ideas was brought in at the right (senior management) level.

        Same tired old rhetoric is still being spewed out even now.

        Its sad when the only way they can think to increase profit is by getting rid of the very talent they need.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A recognised general practice

        > when asked if contractors might be offered jobs full-time told us in no uncertain terms that our value to IBM was our expendability

        Presumably that was "flexibility", but isn't that true? Contractors are paid a nice premium because the business can stop using them at short notice. Permanent staff are paid much less, but it's a complex process to remove them.

        Now with IR35 of course the former arrangement is much less attractive, but that's IR35 for you.

  7. Auntie Dickspray

    Claw Back the Criminals' Compensation

    How ironic that Old-Bag Ginni was a major player in Axe-the-Seniors @ IBM. Of course, the Wicked Witch and the rest of the overcompensated C Suite will never suffer their own poison.

    What is just compensation for the aggrieved?

    For all such cases, it should include a treble-the-years-of-the-crime sentence of mandatory over-40 hiring. That's right: You won't even be able to hire a janitor, unless he has gray starting to show at his temples.

    How's that for corporate "right-sizing"?

    1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Re: Claw Back the Criminals' Compensation

      While I agree. Some of the blame lies with IBMs older workers. I've worked with some of them in my career and they only know "older IBM tech" and stubbornly refuse to update their skillet. All with a company that is struggling to keep up with its competitors.

      As is typical of IBM, management is struggling to properly deal with this situation and falls back on the Old School tactic of taking an ax to their older staff.

      1. Martin M

        Re: Claw Back the Criminals' Compensation

        I know IBM is famous for big iron, is that why the skillet needs to be regularly updated?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Claw Back the Criminals' Compensation

        "stubbornly refuse to update their skillet"

        Canteen staff?

        1. bigmacbear

          Re: Claw Back the Criminals' Compensation

          "Cast iron was fine for grandpa, and it's good enough for me!"

  8. macjules Silver badge

    What a bunch of scumbags

    Having worked contracted at IBM I am so relieved that I passed on the opportunity to take up full time redundancy employment there.

    Nice place to work at. Shame about the morons management.

    1. Fred Goldstein

      Re: What a bunch of scumbags

      A decade ago, an attorney I knew was dealing with one of those ARRA stimulus grants, which his clients believed was being misspent. NTIA, the overseeing agency, seemed okay with the diversion of funds from where it was promised to where it would compete with his clients. And the funded agency was using some IBM donations-in-kind, not cash, as their 20% match. Some FOIA requests got heavily redacted documents from NTIA. And they were redacted by putting a black box over the text that was still there, easily accessible with a PDF editor, even OpenOffice. You'd think IBM, deep in that mess, would have learned by now.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: What a bunch of scumbags

        "A decade ago [...] You'd think IBM, deep in that mess, would have learned by now."

        Most people employed a decade ago at IBM have been laid off.

  9. MacroRodent Silver badge

    Wonder if the redactors ever learn

    "Redactions" that are easily undone with copy-paste have been objects of ridicule for decades now. One would expect by now that people have learned. But fortunately, for the amusement of TheReg readers, it continues.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Wonder if the redactors ever learn

      Mosy of the redactors have probably not been there long enough to have learned.

      If only there were well experienced staff available.......

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Re: Wonder if the redactors ever learn

      Almost like the person making the redactions was very young.

      1. Patched Out

        Re: Wonder if the redactors ever learn

        Or maybe not so young and knew exactly what they were doing ...

  10. Joe Drunk

    IBM - the Grand Masters of Bullshit Bingo

    I am in awe after reading all the communique from their senior management.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No tribunal

    Assume the problem for the ex IBMers is that they signed a no tribunal//litigation agreement for a few extra $$$$ pay off. Saw this type of agreement several times during my time at IBM once while being shifted to replace a full timer "I was contract staff" making it obvious his role was not redundant.

  13. RichardBarrell

    Why do the plaintiffs want to bring this case in Texas specifically, anyway? Favourable legislative environment for them? Is it just that some of them are in Texas and they wanted to all file one big suit together instead of lots of individual suits?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Employment laws differ from state to state...

  14. HammerOn1024

    An Old Addage

    Dear IBM,

    Tit... meet wringer...

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: An Old Addage

      And this one is electric.

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