On October 7, 2003, a group of former employees filed suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act ("OWBPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 626(f), against International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in United States District Court of the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the Court for declaratory, injunctive and compensatory relief as well as double damages, alleging that IBM discriminated against its older employees. Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that IBM held a pattern and practice of discrimination in both individual terminations and involuntary group terminations, known as Resource Actions. Syverson v. International Business Machines Corporation, 2904252 WL 1 (N.D.C.A. 2007).
Each of the named plaintiffs, with one exception, had signed a general termination covenant agreeing not to sue the company. These releases were considered binding, and were intended by IBM as a means to prevent this type of litigation. The plaintiffs claim these waivers had a disparate impact on them.
On February 12, 2004, IBM filed a counterclaim against the plaintiffs, seeking attorney's fees for all the proceedings under this litigation. IBM further demanded a jury trial for these proceedings. (Counterclaim, page 2).
On May 4, 2004, the Court (Judge Whyte) granted the defendant's motion to dismiss and denied the plaintiffs motion to dismiss the counterclaim. Syverson v. International Business Machines Corporation, 27844 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1 (N.D.C.A. 2004). The plaintiffs appealed this decision. This Ninth Circuit accepted the case, but took an enormously long time to come to a decision.
On August 31, 2006, the United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit (Judge Berzon, Judge Callahan, Judge Rawlinson) reversed the District Court's decision, vacated the decision on the counterclaim and remanded the case back to the District. The Circuit Court ruled that under the OWBPA, employees may not waive their right to sue unless they do so "knowingly and voluntarily." The Court stated that IBM's waiver was not written in a clear and calculated manner, thus, the "knowingly" standard was not met, and plaintiffs case still had merit. Syverson v. International Business Machines Corporation, 461 F.3d 1149 (9th Circuit. 2006). The defendant appealed this decision by the Circuit Court, asking for a rehearing en banc.
On January 12, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit (Judge Berzon, Judge Callahan, Judge Rawlinson) denied the defendant's appeal. However, in this decision, with the consent of both parties, the Court modified its previous decision on the defendant's counterclaim. Syverson v. International Business Machines Corporation, 472 F.3d 1087 (9th Circuit. 2007).
On October 3, 2007, the District Court (Judge Whyte) granted the defendant's motion to dismiss certain claims. The Court dismissed the plaintiffs first claim under the OWBPA with prejudice and dismissed the plaintiffs disparate impact claim regarding individual terminations. Syverson v. International Business Machines Corporation, 2904252 WL 6 (N.D.C.A. 2007). The plaintiffs the moved to amend their complaint, and on November 6, 2007, filed their Third Amended Complaint. The parties then engaged in extensive discovery.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) (voluntary dismissal), the Court dismissed the case with prejudice on January 29, 2009. Each party was to bear his own costs in the litigation.Haley Waller - 10/29/2010