RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Several former IBM workers filed sued against the tech giant Wednesday alleging they were victims of age discrimination when job cuts were made at the company.

The suit was filed by four ex-IBMers in federal court in White Plains, NY.

In a statement, IBM said it expects to prevail in the fight.

This lawsuit follows a similar action filed against IBM last September which included a 67-year-old Cary resident Henry Gerrits. Both followed a report in ProPublica that documented what it called “widespread age discrimination.”

The new suit also could morph into a larger case.

“Until now, most age-related legal actions contesting an IBM layoff have been brought by the rare ex-worker who refused to sign the agreement and left without severance,” ProPublica reported Wednesday. “If the district court were to agree that IBM’s separation agreement is invalid, it could open the company up to lawsuits by tens of thousands of older workers IBM has laid off in recent years.

Doug Shelton, a corporate spokesperson for IBMN, said the company believes its policies are “legal.”

“The plaintiff’s theories have been rejected by courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. We are confident that our arbitration clauses are legal and appropriate,” Shelton said in an email to WRAL TechWire.

Laywer: IBM ‘openly lawless’ in behavior

“By filing this lawsuit, we are sending IBM the message that its openly lawless and deceptive behavior must stop now,” said David Webbert, co-counsel and Partner at  Johnson, Webbert & Young, LLP in Maine.

The firm is representing four IBM workers who were laid off in 2016.

IBM violated the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

“IBM’s strategy – flouting the OWBPA’s mandated disclosures of key evidence of possible age discrimination – is a brazen attempt to cover up its flagrant and widespread discrimination against older workers,” added Jeffrey Neil Young of the JWY firm.

The firm says its four clients are “just four of over 20,000 IBM employees over the age of 40 who have been discharged by IBM during the past six years.”

‘IBM cannot escape discrimination laws,’ says attorney in age bias suit

In the earlier suit, Gerrits and those in the suit alleged IBM has consistently laid off at least 20,000 employees over the age of 40 between 2012 and the present – the result of a shift in IBM’s personal focus to the generation of workers referred to as “millennials,” or those born after 1980.

“We intend to show IBM that it cannot escape discrimination laws this way,” employment lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is known as one of the nation’s top class action employment lawyers, and has represented workers against other powerhouses like Google, Amazon and Uber, told WRAL TechWire.

Report: IBM hit ‘most senior employees hardest’ for layoffs, ‘flouting’ age bias rules

Liss-Riordan said she believed IBM systematically targeted older workers for layoff to build a younger workforce, flouting rules against age bias – and she’s going to prove it.

“IBM seems to recognize it has a problem here,” she said, noting the fact that the tech giant had carved out age discrimination claims from its severance agreement in recent years.

Cary resident among 3 IBMers suing Big Blue for age discrimination

It did so, she says, “so that it would not have to provide the required disclosures of ages of its workers who were retained and who were laid off” in an effort to conceal its effort to shed its older employees.

IBM argued in the earlier suit that the changes in its workforce are about skills, not age.

Report: Feds launch age discrimination probe of IBM in making layoffs

“In fact, since 2010 there is no difference in the age of our U.S. workforce, but the skills profile has changed dramatically,” IBM spokesperson Edward Barbini said in an e-mailed statement in September. “That is why we have been and will continue investing heavily in employee skills and retraining — to make all of us successful in this new era of technology.”

Resource Action information questioned

In Wednesday’s announcement. the suit notes that “IBM ended its over ten-year practice of providing laid-off workers with age-specific, demographic information about the layoff selections, as required by the OWBPA. Instead, it began implementing a company-wide plan, hatched by top executives, to violate the OWBPA by concealing evidence of its large-scale discriminatory layoffs—called ‘Resource Actions’—that eliminated older employees in favor of much younger ones.”

ProPublic reported that the new suit “opens a new legal front, challenging the IBM agreement’s one-at-a-time restriction as a violation of workers’ rights under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The law allows laid-off workers to take legal action against their employers as a group, either in court or arbitration.”

The law firm said that the OWBPA “protects older workers from unfair coercion and manipulation when they are laid off and offered severance packages in return for the release of their rights to bring age discrimination claims under the ADEA.

“One key protection is that the employer cannot obtain a valid release from a group of laid-off workers of their rights under the ADEA without first providing them with age-specific, demographic information about possible age discrimination in the layoff selections,” the firm added.

IBM operates one of its largest corporate campuses in RTP and employs several thousand people across North Carolina.