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Is IBM making it harder to assess and claim age discrimination?

by on May 13, 2014

This item on the Bloomberg website reports concerns that IBM are changing the information made available to staff who are fired.  In the US, IBM used to give such employees a severance package that asked them to waive age discrimination claims and included a page listing the job titles and ages of other workers being let go. 

Workers 40 years and older are protected in the US by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act 1990.  The information that IBM used to give was required under this legislation. It has to be easy to understand, refer to specific age discrimination claims, give workers at least 45 days to consider the waiver and encourage them to seek legal advice. It also has to include eligibility factors, plus the titles and ages of the workers considered for the layoff, including both those who were fired and those who weren’t.

Now IBM is avoiding this disclosure requirement by offering workers the option of bringing claims in arbitration.  Under this new procedure, staff could accept a severance agreement and still bring an age discrimination claim in arbitration. The concern, however, is that the strategy could make it harder and riskier for dismissed older workers to decide whether it’s worth taking on the cost of a legal claim.

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