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Former IBM exec claims his termination was part of company strategy to remove older executives from its ranks

by HR Law Canada

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has dismissed a motion by IBM Canada to strike allegations of systemic age discrimination from a lawsuit filed by a former executive, B.M.

B.M., who was dismissed in June 2022, alleges that his termination was part of a broader strategy by IBM’s U.S. parent company to remove older executives from their positions.

“The plaintiff alleges that the policy was adopted and carried out by IBM Canada and that he was terminated at the direction of IBM U.S.,” the court said in the ruling.

IBM Canada contested the relevance of these claims, labeling them as “irrelevant” and “scandalous,” and sought to have them excluded from the case without the possibility of re-filing. Specifically, the disputed claims involve policies from IBM U.S. that B.M. asserts influenced decisions about his employment and termination.

The court, while acknowledging that bare allegations should be struck out, said B.M. “has pleaded the necessary and sufficient material facts to support a claim of systemic age discrimination.” That included:

  • B.M. saw hiring and firing practices consistent with age-related discrimination within the IBM U.S. executive and within his business unit. For example, his immediate supervisor was terminated without cause after 30 years of service and was replaced by a younger executive with no experience in that field.
  • B.M.’s superior told him he would be passed over for promotion because of his age, which he alleges happened three times.

“On a pleadings motion, one of the issues is an assessment as to whether the allegations are provable. A fact that is not provable at the trial or that is incapable of affecting the outcome is immaterial and ought not to be pleaded,” the court said. “In this case, I am satisfied that the Systemic Age Discrimination Pleadings are provable based on the material facts alleged.”

The court’s decision allows B.M. to narrow his claims of age discrimination to focus specifically on executive-level employees and to adjust allegations about the firing and hiring practices within IBM U.S.

IBM Canada argued that the allegations dating back to 2013 were too broad and could unfairly compel them to disclose extensive internal documents from over the years, potentially complicating the legal proceedings. However, the judge found these concerns insufficient to exclude the allegations from the trial, noting the importance of these issues in understanding the context of B.M.’s termination.

The court has advised that the detailed claims of systemic age discrimination and other related allegations could be integral to B.M.’s request for punitive damages and his claims under the Ontario Human Rights Code. As such, these pleadings should not be dismissed merely because they add complexity to the case.

It also awarded $6,000 in costs to B.M., an all-inclusive amount that was agreed to by both parties in advance.

For more information, see Maule v. IBM Canada Ltd, 2024 ONSC 2241 (CanLII).

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