IBM sued for age discrimination after firing thousands: 6 things to know

A prominent lawyer known for representing employees of tech giants filed a lawsuit Sept. 17 on behalf of three IBM employees who claim the company discriminated against their age when it fired them, Bloomberg reports.

Here are six things to know:

1. Shannon Liss-Riordan, a partner at Lichten & Liss-Riordan in Boston, filed the class-action lawsuit in a federal court in Manhattan. She has represented workers against Amazon, Uber and Google.

2. In the lawsuit, the former employees claim that "over the last several years, IBM has been in the process of systematically laying off older employees in order to build a younger workforce," referencing a March ProPublica report that revealed IBM had fired more than 20,000 employees older than 40 in the last six years.

3. IBM said the layoffs were part of an effort to reimagine the skillset of its workforce.

"Changes in our workforce are about skills, not age," an IBM spokesperson told Bloomberg. "In fact, since 2010 there is no difference in the age of our U.S. workforce, but the skills profile of our employees has changed dramatically. That is why we have been and will continue investing heavily in employee skills and retraining — to make all of us successful in this new era of technology.''

4. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination — has consolidated numerous complaints against big blue into a single, targeted investigation.

5. A lawyer not involved with the case told Bloomberg that if the judge approves the class-action lawsuit, it could result in IBM paying hundreds of millions of dollars to its former employees.

6. In May, IBM laid off several employees from its Watson Health group, with at least 40 workers cut from its Cleveland office. It is not clear whether the individuals included in the May layoffs are related to the lawsuit.  

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