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Questions and Answers
for current employees and those who've lost their jobs

Updated August 18, 2003

Also check out the Job Cut Survival Guide

Q0. I'd like to file a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC; can I still sign the Covenant not to Sue?
See Guidance from the EEOC web site.

Q1. I was just let go and I think it was because of (fill in your) situation, which I think is totally unfair. Do I have any recourse? Do you know of any lawyers in my area that might be of assistance?

Q2. I am over 40 and IBM has just let me go. I feel they are letting go older workers. What can I do?

Q3. I was laid off with 30 days' notice and 30 days' pay, and now I hear that IBM has laid off over 4000 employees. Doesn't that mean I should be getting 60 days' notice and 60 days of pay?

Q4. What is going on with the pension lawsuit? How can I participate in the suit? Who is eligible?

Q5. What could a union do about job cuts?

Q6. When is the union vote?

Q7. This fact sheet didn't answer my question. Where can I post a question?

Q8. Where can I get more information about employment rights?

Q9. What are my rights as far as the union is concerned?

Q10. I have some questions about unions.


Q1. I was just let go and I think it was because of (fill in your) situation, which I think is totally unfair. Do I have any recourse? Do you know of any lawyers in my area that might be of assistance?

A1. First, document your situation as best as you can. Hopefully you have been keeping documentation of conversations with managers over the course of the situation. Then seek advice of a local attorney and find out what your options are.

We recommend trying to find someone who is versed in employment law for your state, as well as federal employment law, since many of the states have better or different protections than those offered by federal law. If you are a dues-paying member of the Alliance, you have free access to the Lawyer Referral service and 30 minutes of consultation with an attorney (see Union Privilege). If not, the best technique is to call your state attorney general's office or employment office, and start asking for references. Look for someone with experience fighting a large corporation, if not IBM. Note that lawyers generally get paid by the hour, sometimes even during preliminary discussions, so it is best if you do as much homework as you can ahead of time so you have all the information they might need ahead of time. Keep copies of all of the paperwork you're getting from IBM, including the convenant you sign and the statistics about who was let go along with you.

Unfortunately, employees in most states are considered "at will" employees, meaning a company can let you go without any reason, except for cases of discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, disability, or over 40 years of age (see http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html for more information). However, an attorney can tell you what your options are in your particular situation.

If we had a union contract in place now, you would have additional options, such as a grievance procedure to appeal your case, the right to know why you were let go, and the right to be recalled to your job when business picks up and IBM is hiring again.

Q2. I am over 40 and IBM has just let me go. I feel they are letting go older workers. What can I do?

A2. Please file a complaint with the federal agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. How to do this is explained online at the EEOC web site. Even though you sign the waiver not to sue IBM in order to get your severance check, you can still file a complaint with this agency. If they get enough complaints from IBMer's, the agency would do an investigation.

If you read the 'not-to-sue convenant', you'll find language in it that states that you cannot give up your rights not to be discriminated against that were created under ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act.) So what many people do is go ahead and sign the agreement, collect their severence pay, and then file a charge with the EEOC. Note that you don't need to hire a lawyer to file charges with the EEOC, you just need to call the regional office and file the appropriate paper work, and you can do that even after you have signed the convenant; you'll need to do that even if you hire your own attorney, as age discrimination charges cannot be pursued without the EEOC being given a chance to investigate.

Q3. I was laid off with 30 days notice and 30 days' pay, and now I hear that IBM has laid off over 4000 employees. Doesn't that mean I should be getting 60 days' notice and 60 days of pay?

A3. You are referring to the federal WARN act. This law requires employers give 60 days' notice of layoffs and 60 days' pay, but only in certain circumstances. The layoff notice must be for 500 or more employees let go within 30 days at any one site, not including part timers or those hired within the last 6 months. We believe IBM is scattering the job cuts as much as they can to avoid the WARN act. However, some states have laws that are stronger than this federal law; Vermont is one. More information about the WARN act is here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/allcfr/ETA/Title_20/Part_639/toc.htm

Q4. What is going on with the pension lawsuit? How can I participate in the suit? Who is eligible?

A4. There is a class-action lawsuit, Cooper vs. IBM, which charges that IBM discriminated against employees based on age in both the 1995 and 1999 pension plan changes. When the judge certified the class, he certified it for something called 'injunctive relief', which basically
means IBM, if found guilty, would have to provide a new or revised plan for all impacted employees that does not discriminate by age. There would be no ability to opt in or opt out, although IBM would have to count all of your accruals under the current plan, so you could end up choosing between your current pension payment and a new one...

The claim made in the lawsuit is that both the 1995 plan amendment and the 1999 plan amendment illegally discriminate by age, and therefore need to be fixed. Furthermore, the 1999 plan amendment was such a major change that it should have been treated as a plan termination rather than a plan amendment, which would mean that all who were employed at IBM on July 1, 1999 should have automatically become vested, regardless of whether they had 5 years of service.

As you may already know the Judge has ruled in favor of Kathi Cooper et al. IBM has stated in the press that they plan to appeal the decision. If the appeals are exhausted by IBM and the ruling stays, a remedy will be issued by the Judge at that time. This could mean a settlement of some degree. When/if a settlement is reached, all plaintiffs would have to be notified -- IBM would have to provide a complete list of affected employees/ex-employees/retirees and their addresses. This contact will not be done until a settlement is reached and all appeals have been exhausted -- our guess for when that might happen is still 2007 (or so).

More information on the lawsuit can be found at:
http://www.cashpensions.org/IBMCertFAQ.htm

Q7. This fact sheet didn't answer my question. Where can I post a question?

A7. There are a couple of places to post questions, and where you can read discussion among IBM employees:

Your Legal Rights - Important Links:

More Links, particularly about pensions: http://www.cashpensions.org/rights.html

If any links on this page fail, please send an e-mail to the Alliance IT Administrator , so they can be corrected.
Thank you!