back to article IBM settles age discrimination case that sought top execs' emails

Less than a week after IBM was ordered in an age discrimination lawsuit to produce internal emails in which its former CEO and former SVP of human resources discuss reducing the number of older workers, the IT giant chose to settle the case for an undisclosed sum rather than proceed to trial next month. The order, issued on …

  1. ecofeco Silver badge

    What a coinkydink!

    Gee I wonder why they did that?! /s

  2. DS999 Silver badge

    The oldest millennials are 40 now

    IBM is going to want to get rid of them in favor of Gen Z before long!

    1. ratcatcher67

      Re: The oldest millennials are 40 now

      Cheap Labour LOL... Peanuts Monkeys Pox etc

  3. elDog

    The direction the US is going, they'll sign up the zygote and fire her when she's born.

    That country (is mine) seems not to care about living creatures above the age of zero. Get up a bit more and they'll actually try to kill you off.

    1. aerogems Bronze badge

      Re: The direction the US is going, they'll sign up the zygote and fire her when she's born.

      The Warhammer 40K universe was meant to be this dark deeply dystopian place where life is cheap, usually short, and brutal. They do things like sacrifice 1,000 people every day to keep their god from dying completely, and people are literally chained to work areas in giant factories and then if they have kids they are immediately chained in their parent's place when they die as their inheritance. These were meant to be shocking in their brutality, but lately we've actually managed to surpass a lot of them. During the height of the covid pandemic, anti-vaxxers were dying at rates well over 1,000/day and they cheered, and now this makes it seem like we're not 38K years (give or take) away from people being literally chained to a desk and their kids are put to work basically from birth. All so a few elites can live in opulent luxury.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: The direction the US is going, they'll sign up the zygote and fire her when she's born.

        Have you ever seen inside an Amazon warehouse?

        Not chained in the literal sense I suppose, but with a system of AI-powered performance monitoring, which also controls the lower and middle management tiers.

        "Worker 445621: You seem to have worked yourself half to death. You're fired."

      2. mrjohn

        Re: The direction the US is going, they'll sign up the zygote and fire her when she's born.

        "During the height of the covid pandemic, anti-vaxxers were dying at rates well over 1,000/day and they cheered,"

        This didn't happen.

        1. aerogems Bronze badge

          Re: The direction the US is going, they'll sign up the zygote and fire her when she's born.

          Maybe not in the fantasy world you live in, but here in the real world it did.

      3. usa1

        Re: The direction the US is going, they'll sign up the zygote and fire her when she's born.

        Haha, I love the anti-vaxxer rant inserted there. Trust "The Science (TM)"!

        I'll put you in the "Pro-Untested-Drug-Big-Pharma-Wants-Me-To-Take-Like-A-Good-Boy" camp.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Nickle LaMoreaux insisting there has never been "systematic age discrimination" at IBM"

    And my farts smell sweet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps the HR drone's excuse is that nothing IBM does is "systematic", rather the discrimination is haphazard, arbitrary, punitive, and often bungled, as IBM is wont to do.

      1. Woodnag

        "systemic age discrimination" vs "systematic age discrimination"

        It's pretty clear that a word has been chosen that can be argued to mean something later that is not what we understand it to mean now.

        That the mouthpieces confused the two is interesting... which one was the word that Legal told 'em to use?

    2. WhereAmI?
      Angel

      So do mine! :-D

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Ginny's Emails

    is to IBM, like Kryptonite is to Superman

  6. David 132 Silver badge
    Pint

    As good as admitting guilt

    Given that IBM's Nazgul legal team are on retainer and it's not as if any potential legal costs would deter them, nothing says "we're guilty as hell and don't want to establish that in a legal precedent" as much as settling pre-trial.

    A pint for the plaintiff anyway, even if it's not the definitive spanking for IBM that we'd hoped for.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: As good as admitting guilt

      Agreed. The likely settlement is probably something close to what the litigants expected to get, otherwise they probably wouldn't have accepted. This smells very, very strongly of IBM simply paying to keep the damning evidence under wraps for another few years. I suspect any future cases will be settled in the same way until IBM can legitimately say they deleted those emails as being past the legal age whereby they must be retained.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: As good as admitting guilt

      "legal team are on retainer and it's not as if any potential legal costs would deter them"

      The demand for emails is clearly a nuclear option the legal team can do nothing about. IBM could save money by getting rid of the legal team and settling on demand.

      1. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: As good as admitting guilt

        @Doctor Syntax “The demand for emails is clearly a nuclear option the legal team can do nothing about. IBM could save money by getting rid of the legal team and settling on demand.”

        The legal team are not there to save IBM money. They are there to cover the arses of the executive management by hiding the executive management’s wrongdoings. That’s the reason for the NDAs and why they settle the moment they are required to disclose the emails of former CEO Ginny Rometty and former HR SVP Diane Gherson.

        Even the shareholder’s see the arse covering. https://www.theregister.com/2022/05/05/ibm_shareholders_nda/

        1. James Anderson

          Re: As good as admitting guilt

          Could be time for a shareholder lawsuit.

          Management burning money to cover up their mistakes -- would p*ss me off if I was still foolish enough to own IBM shares.

          1. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: As good as admitting guilt

            @James Anderson The share holders should put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the executive management and throw them under the bus. The can say the age discrimination was down to rogue executives, makes a change from blaming a rogue engineer. ;)

  7. MajorDoubt
    Unhappy

    So goes the crooked world

    NDA's should be outlawed, they don't serve the public good and only protect the worst that society has to offer

    oh well, who cares as long as I get mine.

    fairness will always be just a illusion.

    1. David Austin

      Re: So goes the crooked world

      massively over-simplifying it, but:

      An NDA That stops you talking about the product is OK

      An NDA That stops you talking about *You* is not OK

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So goes the crooked world

        “An NDA That stops you talking about *You* is not OK”

        Exactly the scope of what can be covered by an NDA is too wide, almost anything can be included in an NDA. The NDA can include itself, so you can not even disclose its existence. Here is a couple of snippets from one I received a few years back in the UK working for a US multinational (not IBM).

        It is a condition of this Agreement that its terms shall remain confidential to the parties. Except as agreed in this Agreement or otherwise required or permitted by law, no statement or comment shall be made by the parties to any third party in relation to the terms or existence of this Agreement, the claims of the Employee settled by its terms and/or the circumstances of the termination of the Employee's employment.

        The Employee will not make, publish or cause to be published any disparaging remarks concerning the Company, any Group Company, its or their directors, officers, shareholders, consultants, agents, employees or workers, any product or service being sold, developed or provided by the Company and/or any Group Company.

        That is just a small part what I can’t do. There is a part that states when I can disclose, when required by law, reporting a crime, court order and giving evidence.

        That's from the UK, no idea how much worse a US NDA would be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So goes the crooked world

          I suspect it's pretty much boilerplate text included in all NDAs - I too have one of those in the filing cabinet somewhere. In my case, they decided it was easier to give me a sum of money and we agree to part ways than for them to address the systemic issues that caused me to be off work for months with stress related ailments.

          Mind you, I had to get a number of corrections and changes made before agreeing to it. As it happens, had I not done, I wouldn't have been permitted to go back a few years later and assist with some system migrations they were trying to do with the old systems. As I'm not the sort of person to a) hold a grudge against those not involved, and b) happy to earn a crust; I insisted they add "Unless authorised by the company" in front of "will not access any systems" meaning that they could ask me to go back later - otherwise technically I'd have had to say (to the new management) "sorry, I'm contractually prohibited from helping you out".

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Us oldies

    We know too much.

    Management prefer empty headed vessels (or maybe even vassals)

  9. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    Pull the other one -- It's got bells on!

    there was and is no systemic age discrimination at IBM and the data back that up

    Then why "settle the case for an undisclosed sum rather than proceed to trial"?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Pull the other one -- It's got bells on!

      Because a trial might be very upsetting for the fired workers and IBM is fundamentally a philanthropic organization that would do anything to make things better for its workers who are just like family

  10. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    IBM =. Logan's Run

    Ya gotta be under 30 to work there!

    1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Re: IBM =. Logan's Run

      Ya gotta be under 30 to work there!

      Is that in cm or age?

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: IBM =. Logan's Run

        Perhaps IQ?

  11. Kane Silver badge
    Boffin

    What else is in those emails?

    I have to ask, because "The facts of the matter have not changed: there was and is no systemic age discrimination at IBM and the data back that up".

    If that's truly the case (we know it isn't), then why settle out of court?

  12. krivine
    Megaphone

    I'm shocked, I tell you...

    ... that an IBM official statement flouts their style guidelines, and treats "data" as plural.

    "The facts of the matter have not changed: there was and is no systemic age discrimination at IBM and the data back that up," IBM's spokesperson said.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'm shocked, I tell you...

      Maybe the mouthpiece was better educated than the author of the style guide?

      1. krivine
        Headmaster

        Re: I'm shocked, I tell you...

        Quite! I've never forgiven those Vulgar Latins who used "folia" as the nominative singular, instead of "folium". Consequently, I insist on making French "feuille" masculine.

    2. JacobZ
      Coat

      Re: I'm shocked, I tell you...

      Data are my favorite character in Star Wars!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm shocked, I tell you...

        Is your favorite Big Data or Little Data? Or, judging from the smile on Yar's face, perhaps Not That Little Data? Fully functional with some parts designed by Juliana?

    3. jmch Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: I'm shocked, I tell you...

      Well, since we never got to see "the data", we'll just take your word for it, shall we??

  13. Auntie Dix
    Flame

    IBM's Cure: A Supreme Release

    Just as the Roe v. Wade poisonous draft revision was released to the media, so should Grandma Ginny's IBM e-mails.

    Just as the SCOTUS injustices' homes have been vociferously picketed, so should hers.

    Neutered courts let these creeps retire in wealth, privacy, and obscurity, when they deserve society's never-ending scorn.

    Doxx, cancel, repeat.

  14. Potemkine! Silver badge

    So, Justice is a bitch you can silence with a huge bundle of dollar bills.

  15. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    NDA to the max

    So the plaintiffs are not allowed to speak about the settlement? As part of the next settlement, one of these plaintiffs should insert a clause that IBM will refrain from claiming they have not engaged in age discrimination.

  16. jmch Silver badge

    Why???

    If it was me suing IBM, I know that I'm going to win anyway, they're going to be publically embarrassed (and no doubt open to multiple other lawsuits), I'm anyway going to walk away with a big payday, what does it take to make me settle??

    If IBM were offering me about the same as I would win anyway, why settle? They must be offering 10X as much in settlement as they expected to lose in court.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Why???

      There's always an element of risk in proceeding with litigation. Plus, there's the stress of it all - especially as the opposition will do their utmost to smear your good character etc. etc.

      So given that there is a risk that you'll "crap out" from the stress, a risk that you'll have your good character ruined, and a chance that you'll lose and face financial ruin, and while this is all going on you might have no income to live off - there will (almost) always be some level of offer that will be acceptable.

  17. RLWatkins

    Settling an ongoing case should go on the books as a loss by the defendant.

    This is typical of organizations which can afford to keep a flying wedge of lawyers on perpetual retainer: If the case goes their way they continue with it so it will become established precedent, i.e. case law, but if it looks as if they'll lose they settle out of court to prevent the loss becoming established case law.

    How to prevent this? Record an out-of-court settlement as a loss for the defendant. That would level the playing-field just a bit.

    Meanwhile, and yes, I know, I repeat myself, Hell is full and zombies in suits are walking the Earth. How's that working out for us, eh?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The shareholders should call all the victims of these lawsuits in their securities fraud case. They are accusing senior execs of financial engineering, but also cutting employees sales commissions (cheating them out of millions) & laying employees off (it is alleged that some of those laid off had gone to upper mgmt to dispute sales commisions). It's criminal what Rometty, Gherson & their henchmen managers (some of who were just brought in to fire targeted employees; others were brought in to set employees up & then were promoted).

    The shifting of money from one biz unit to another, layoffs & non-payment of sales commissions to reward these non-performing C-suite executives was criminal. The shareholders should hear all the victims stories. The world should see first hand how IBM treats its employees & "sets them up," as part of "The Scheme," (termed that in the Kinney, et al lawsuit). They've destroyed people's lives. Yes, the ex-employees will have to sign an NDA but may not have to sign an NDC (non-disparagement clause). I hope someone gets a conscience & leaks the emails. Rometty & Gherson are despicable people.

  19. msobkow Silver badge

    I am SO tired of the "we'll pay, but we're not admitting anything" nonsense that keeps CEOs and directors out of jail...

    1. aerogems Bronze badge

      If, in the US, corporations like IBM are considered people then they should be held to the same standard for criminal liability as we meat bags. Obviously you can't put a fictional entity in jail, but we could say that the corporation is banned from conducting business for however long a meat bag person would be put in jail. Or the entire C-Suite is offered up as collateral and will serve the prison sentence on behalf of the company.

  20. WokeUpThisMorning

    I've read every filing, motion and decision and I have to say that this case is bizarre. I'm not on IBM's side EVER, but Schenfeld does not seem to fit the parameters of age discrimination. He did not meet any criteria but one in filing a state lawsuit in NJ. He was belligerent, nasty and condescending to co-workers; did not perform the work given to him; and when asked to produce a work plan, he provided lists. It's almost like he was begging to be laid off. Every other case, the plaintiffs were set up by upper management and were high performers. I think the mistake this guy made was suing all his superiors. They produced the emails. It shows that IBM will even pay off people who did possibly deserve to be laid off, just to keep Rometty and Gherson's emails from getting out.

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