IBM & Kyndryl Sued for Age Discrimination…Again

Senior former executives from the two companies have filed an official complaint.

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Published: June 24, 2024

Rhys Fisher

IBM and its spin-off IT infrastructure provider Kyndryl are being sued for age discrimination.

Five senior executives from both companies brought forward the complaint, which accuses the tech firms of discontinuing roles for older employees while advertising positions for younger applicants.

Amongst the four IBM plaintiffs are the company’s former CEO of Events and VP of Client Experience, with the one Kyndryl accuser having previously been employed as the organization’s Services Account Manager.

The complaint is the latest in a series of accusations leveled at both companies, with it being reported last month that Kyndryl had been accused of discriminating against employees based on age, race, and disability.

Indeed, IBM’s initial issues date back to the 2010s, with a 2021 legal filing claiming that a number of former employees had been discriminated against during the previous decade and that the company was trying “to keep ageist IBM executive-level planning documents confidential.”

In a rebuttal of the allegations published on the company’s website in February 2022, Nickle LaMoreaux, IBM’s Chief Human Resources Officer, stated that “there was (and is) no systemic age discrimination at our company.

IBM’s workforce strategy has always been shaped by one core principle: having the right skills at the right levels in the right jobs to support our clients. It has never been driven by the age of any individual or group of employees.

So, let’s take a closer look at precisely how the companies are being accused of intentionally discriminating against older employees.

The Complaint

The official complaint states that IBM executives devised a plan to replace older workers with younger ones, utilizing the HR and Finance departments to implement it.

They used AI and scoring algorithms to target older employees for layoffs, with the Finance department providing the rationale for these mass exits. IBM allegedly employed biased predictive analytics to identify older workers for dismissal, despite knowing it was against anti-discrimination laws.

To cover up their actions, IBM Legal supposedly spent significant resources on tactics to avoid detection. They used coded language in corporate documents, such as “Early Professional Hire,” “skills remix,” and “transformation,” to disguise their intentions.

The lawsuit claims that layoffs, called “Resource Actions,” were strategically aimed at older workers, who were given unattainable performance goals to justify poor reviews and terminations.

These decisions were pre-approved by HR, with first-line managers being used to mask the true source of the termination decisions.

Additionally, IBM is accused of hiding the replacement of older workers with younger ones by changing job titles and restructuring the organization to make it seem like positions were eliminated, rather than simply replacing older employees.

While neither company has yet responded to the allegations, in the aforementioned IBM statement from Nickle LaMoreaux in 2022, the Chief Human Resources Officer claimed that between 2010 and 2020, 37 percent of all U.S hires at IBM were over the age of 40, and that in 2020 “the median age of IBM’s U.S. workforce was 48, precisely where it was in 2010.”

Accusation Timeline

With such a complex mix of accusations and allegations spanning a considerable period of time, we have included a brief timeline of some of the key moments in the IBM-Kyndryl saga below:

2020: Following a number of high-profile age discrimination claims against IBM and Kyndryl (which was still a part of IBM at the time), the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated the companies and determined that the companies were guilty of discriminating against employees on the basis of age:

The investigation uncovered top-down messaging from Respondent’s (IBM) highest ranks directing managers to engage in an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers to make room for Early professional Hires.

2021: The legal filing mentioned above alleging that several former employees had faced discrimination over the past decade, and that the company was attempting to keep confidential the executive-level planning documents that revealed ageist practices.

September 2023: IBM was sued for age discrimination by two senior HR executives who believe they were laid off by the company ahead of less experienced and productive colleagues, due to their age.

In the complaint, the two HR managers accused IBM of using “runway” – a term that refers to how long IBM expects an employee to stay before retirement, effectively serving as a proxy for age – as a factor in deciding terminations.

May 2024: As mentioned above, Kyndryl’s CISO Defense security group was accused of discriminating based on age, race, and disability, with formal charges filed with the US EEOC.

Kyndryl’s CX Credentials

With a specific focus on IT infrastructure, Kyndryl’s CCaaS offerings alongside its ability to support organizations with their IT transformations have made it an attractive vendor in the CX space.

With a promise to provide “user-friendly, seamless, secure experiences” to its customers, the company boasts the likes of Carrefour Belgium, Japan Airlines, and Mitsubishi as its clients.

Indeed, Kyndryl has also managed to secure partnerships with other major CX tech vendors, such as Five9. Back in 2022, the two tech firms collaborated to introduce Kyndryl’s Intelligent Cloud Contact Centre.

The partnership provided organizations with cloud-based service desk capabilities and personalized IT support, aiding in the migration of their contact centers to the cloud.

Additionally, the companies also formed a joint cloud contact center team to offer specialized skills, training, and education to Kyndryl’s ecosystem partners.


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