SDNY Court Consolidates IBM Age Discrimination-Arbitration Litigation

According to an order issued on Tuesday by United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman, more than two dozen complaints filed by former International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) employees challenging the enforceability of an arbitration agreement the workers signed will be streamlined for efficiency. The newly formed case is captioned In Re: IBM Arbitration Agreement Litigation. 

As previously reported, the ex-employees want the right to litigate their Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) claims in federal court. In particular, the litigants took issue with IBM’s “very modest severance payment” they accepted in exchange for a release of all claims except for those brought under the ADEA. 

According to the complaints, other problematic provisions include a time-sensitive written arbitration demand requirement and a purportedly restrictive confidentiality provision. With regard to the latter provision, IBM’s agreement bars current claimants from using rulings and information obtained in other age discrimination cases challenging the company’s same general practices.

Earlier in August, the court directed the parties to address the appropriateness of consolidation and whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) should be invited to weigh in on the matter, among other things. The parties reportedly agreed that the cases share questions of fact and law and that coordination was appropriate. The court noted that though the cases are consolidated, they are to “‘retain their separate identities.’”

As to the EEOC, the court invited the executive agency to submit an amicus brief in favor of the party it supports or one expressing its neutral views on the matter. This week’s order also sets forth a briefing schedule for summary judgment and cross-motions to dismiss and/or for summary judgment concluding in late November.