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IBM accused of age discrimination by former employee

Once America's preeminent high-tech company, IBM saw its decades-long dominance eclipsed by companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, among others. A few years ago, Big Blue began an aggressive campaign to regain its position and profits by remaking itself as a leaner, younger firm ready to take on the competition.

According to a recent lawsuit filed by a former employee, IBM's pursuit of youth included unlawful age discrimination.

As an IBM recruiter, Brenda VanDeWeghe had an inside view of the company's hiring practices. The former North American Executive Referral Program Manager was 63 when her position was eliminated two years ago. She said IBM began to emphasize the importance of making its workforce younger with a 2014 conference called "Reinvention in the Age of the Millennial." It was there that Big Blue kicked off an "early professional" hiring program solely targeting young professionals.

VanDeWeghe's lawsuit also includes comments from IBM Marketing Manager Erika Riehle about the workplace "dysfunction" caused by the company's Baby Boomer employees.

VanDeWeghe's position was eliminated in 2018 as part of IBM's dramatic workforce reduction that saw it slash tens of thousands of jobs over several years.

A report that year by ProPublica stated that its investigation of internal company documents and public filings found that IBM had "flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination."

ProPublica said IBM would often count the termination of an older employee as a "voluntary retirement" - a ploy VanDeWeghe says the company used when it shed her.

According to a news report, the suit states that IBM violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). VanDeWeghe seeks compensatory damages for "loss of enjoyment of life, emotional pain and suffering, back pay, bonuses, and the value of all other employment benefits," as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees and costs.

If a Milwaukee employer has discriminated against you on the basis of age, contact the employment law office of Alan C. Olson and Associates.

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