back to article IBM manager sues for $5m claiming postnatal demotion

A former IBM product manager has sued Big Blue alleging that the company discriminated against her for going on maternity leave to have twins. In October 2019, according to a complaint [PDF] filed in the Southern District of New York, Catherine Lockinger was working as a product manager for IBM's internal enterprise content …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new...

    ...which really meant that IBM would contort the policy however it needed to...

    Nothing new there. Seen it more than once. Open seats mysteriously vanish. No opportunity to move to another role. Effectively benched, and then shown the door. Scored against goals you don't know, nor given any opportunity to find out what you scored and why. Total crap-shoot.

    I hope she wins.

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new...

      At this point, I wonder who is actually trying to work for IBM

      1. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new...

        Wally. There's money in that there corpse.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new...

      Sounds like IBM’s Senior VP for People worked for Space Karen at some point in their life.

  2. GreggS

    Good luck to her

    If all that is stated is as it is, then $5 mil seems low.

  3. martinusher Silver badge

    It really is a choice, honest...

    Parenting is a real job. You really can't just pop out an infant or two and carry on with your life as if nothing had happened even though this was the traditional approach to maternity for US businesses. The issue here really is that the company can't wait for you to get yourself sorted out and by expecting it to do so you're making sure that generations of younger women will be denied opportunities they deserve because of the risk the employer faces should they decided to start a family.

    I might sound a bit old fashioned but I've seen the maternity leave trick worked several times. The most egregious example was the colleague who got pushed out of his job, demoted because of his lack of academic qualifications, to allow a suitably qualified person to take over as manager. She promptly disappeared on maternity leave leaving him to continue running the place. Another example was a newly appointed principal of a school where my wife worked; she arrived and then promptly started a family, leaving the long time assistant to run the place (and sucking out the awards/kudos before decamping to another post some years later).

    If you start a family with the aristocratic notion that the child or children are going to be looked after like the scions of aristocracy past -- wet nursed and then given a succession of nurses and governors so that they only need appear for a couple of hours each evening as convenient -- then you're not only living in cloud cuckoo land but you're storing up trouble for you and your children. The actual act of growing a child is (almost) the easy bit, the real work is the next 20 years. Its not really a corporation's job to accommodate this but I'm strongly in favor of public resources spent on child care and education.

    1. Rattus
      Mushroom

      Re: It really is a choice, honest...

      better hope that men an't involved in parenting in that case' cos if they are then they too will be unable to perform at work...

      what total and utter crap

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It really is a choice, honest...

      Hey, the 60s are on the telephone

      They want their dinosaur back

    3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: It really is a choice, honest...

      Parenting is hardly new. Every employer should be capable of accommodating parents in the workforce, it's how we all came into existence. It's almost like some companies think they exist in a bubble. Before I was blue, the chief exec of my company said 'we;re not in the business of employing people' seemingly unware that if every business had his attitude nobody would have jobs, or money, and he'd have no customers. We do not live in a bubble, we live in a society.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It really is a choice, honest...

      Wow, I think you've hit the nail on the head here. What women are facing are these very attitudes, attitudes that are around 50-100 years out of date.

      Having children takes time out, however an enlightened employer would look at everybody and ask what can they bring to a business? The fact that people need to work around things is part of business, are you advocating that disabled people shouldn't work because businesses have to accomodate their needs? We've just been through a pandemic and IT businesses managed to have people working from home, working remotely, working funny hours to accomodate childcare. Clever businesses learnt to adapt.,

      There's a work force out there wanting to work, the savvy businesses look at the whole workforce and wonder how to use them, change the hours here and there to accomodate childcare and pick up from school, let people work late in the evening to do whats needed. Restricting your workforce to 50% of the population seems rather short sighted to me.

      I'm ex-IBM (hence being anonymous) and I had a large project with circa 150 people on, one person's child had a major accident and he needed to be home to provide support and care for his wife and child. We had a discussion and he then worked from 18:00 to around 02:00 each night, way outside core hours. A lot of nervousness about him working like this (this is ten years before Covid), could he keep up, could he work from home sensibly? Were comms going to work? We adapated and he showed us that working like was great. His productivity increased, his quality increased, he was a PBC 2 and became a PBC2+ as the work was great. I've had women leave on maternity leave and come back, sure we had to move things around, but we had a happy workforce, we all have to make adapations for stuff. The days of the all seeing/all knowing/god like boss are long gone, thank god. We work together as a team and we make it work because thats what good business and good teams do.

      I've had projects with lots of women in as developers and architects and they were great projects to work with and on.

      Anybody who excludes women in the workplace is short sighted and not getting the best people in.

      Thanks

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It really is a choice, honest...

        It isn't just parents

        Back in the 90s my wife needed a series of major ops.

        Once she was out of hospital I needed to be there for her. To start with she was very tired and slept a lot. We ended up getting up about 10ish and by 5 she'd be knackered and I'd put her back to bed. I could then work through till 2 or 3 in the morning.

        Worked for us

        I got tons of work done so the people I was working with were delighted.

        As a general rule everything in life works better with a little cooperation and a little flexibility.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It really is a choice, honest...

        I agree with everything you said, we need women in teams the one environment I hate working in is all male teams, they soon degrade into laddish clubs and start to exhibit poor behavior, managing them is more stressful as I have to keep reminding them that they have to fit in with corporate norms of acceptable behavior and I end up feeling more like their guardian than their team leader.

    5. Electronics'R'Us
      Stop

      Re: It really is a choice, honest...

      For some years (from about 98 to 2004) I was a single dad and the rules where I lived (Pa) were such that my son had to be have adult supervision at all times.

      The companies I worked for over that period were all supportive of the fact that I had to get home to care for him (pick him up from day care after school, get dinner, all the usual things) and that in the mornings I had to get him to pre-school day care / breakfast / etc. There were occasions that once I had fixed up dinner, bedtime and so on where I would go back to the office for some things (some all nighters in there as well) but it worked out and it worked for the companies as well.

      Perhaps I was fortunate enough to work for enlightened companies, but there is nothing to prevent either parent from having a career.

    6. PM from Hell
      Mushroom

      Re: It really is a choice- but it's the mother choice, not the employers

      Even in the cases you have describe there would be no reason to disadvantage all women during or after childbirth. Many women do return to the workplace to high pressure roles successfully, some by choice some because their income is required to pay the family bills. My own sister was back in full time work 2 weeks after the baby was born working whatever hours were required to do the job. She had a lot of family support but ti was still hard, the only thing that would have been harder would have been 'supported' by being demoted and not being able to pay the bills. You even stated in your response that it is a choice and you are correct, but it's the woman's choice not the employers. The UK isn't perfect by any means but the rights of women to take maternity leave then return to their previous role is pretty much a given for good employers. These rights are still mandated by law they are not an option. The vast majority of women I have worked with have returned from maternity leave and done a cracking job despite the horrible transition to leaving a baby at home the guilt they feel and the utter exhaustion any new baby brings. You ignore the impact that a new baby can have on the new father too, My eldest daughter didn't sleep through a full night from being 6 months old to 4 my wife had to be awake with her during the day so I did take dome of the burden, this included spending an entire night walking around the lounge carrying her as she would wake up screaming if I stopped moving, this lead to many days when I would appear at work utterly exhausted and struggle to get through the day and a number of days where I did have to call in sick as I know I could not have performed and it would have been dangerous for me to drive and I know from my own life experience that this is not unusual but no-one suggests removing opportunities or responsibilities from new fathers on the that basis, indeed I got nothing but support from my colleagues who could step in when required and from my managers, perhaps the fact that several of them had small children played a part in that. I did fulfill my job responsibilities and this did mean continuing to travel for consultancy work, in fact about the only concession I can remember female colleagues requesting was to get home every night, as a team we were happy to swap assignments to make sure that happened, because we were a team, we were all under huge amounts of pressure and all relied on each other.

  4. enormous c word
    Gimp

    Cut'n'dried

    This looks cut and dried to me - the treatment described sucks - $5M is cheap compared to a reputation as a progressive employer that needs new ideas and new energy - now in tatters. The IBM Managers who took these decisions and those that went along with it should be looking for new jobs where their unique skills can best be utilised - perhaps herding sheep, certainly not leading people.

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