RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – An age discrimination lawsuit against IBM filed by workers who say they were forced out in favor of younger employees can proceed, the judge handling the case says.

However, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni is limiting the number of people who can participate in the case.

“U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in a 77-page order on Friday said that workers who did not file complaints against IBM with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can only ‘piggyback’ on the complaints of the named plaintiffs in the 2018 lawsuit, and not those filed by individuals who later opted in,” Reuters reported on Monday.

Bloomberg Law added that “certain other ex-employees who agreed to arbitrate in exchange for severance, can’t pursue the case.”

Complaints were originally filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Earlier this month the judge ruled the original plantiffs “didn’t identify a common policy or plan International Business Machines Corp. followed in executing an alleged purge of 40-or-over employees in order to replace them with younger workers.”

Last September, one of the attorneys involved in the case noted that the EEOC had backed up charges IBM had discriminated against older workers, the lawyer waging a class-action lawsuit against Big Blue has had “hundreds of former IBM employees” contact her.

“We’re in the process of signing them up to join our collective action lawsuit or file for individual arbitration,” well-known employment lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan told WRAL TechWire by phone on Tuesday morning.

She is currently representing about 150 former IBM employees — and counting — who are claiming they lost their jobs because of age discrimination. That includes Henry Gerrits, 68, from Cary, who was laid off from IBM in March 2019.

IBM employs thousands of people across North Carolina and owns Raleigh-based Red Hat.

IBM on the defensive: ‘Hundreds more’ join class-action age discrimination lawsuit, says lawyer