Former IBM Employee Wins Up To $4 Million In Age Discrimination Suit

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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James Castelluccio v. International Business Machines Corp.: A Stamford man who claims that IBM dismissed him after 41 years because of his age stands to collect between $3.5 and $4 million following a federal court trial.

The drawn-out battle between what the plaintiff's lawyer called "David and Goliath" had been in the courts since 2009. Of particular note was a pre-trial motion concerning an internal investigation by IBM that drew the attention of employment lawyers nationwide. A federal judge, who ruled the investigative report inadmissible as trial evidence, said the probe was too one-sided and needed to be more neutral, perhaps done by an independent third party.

The IBM internal investigator said he would have ceased the age discrimination probe had the employee signed a severance agreement. The judge said IBM should have been interested in uncovering the truth regardless of whether the employee, James Castelluccio, had taken the severance package or pursued his lawsuit.

"I'm certainly going to advise my clients that [internal] investigations have to be careful, they have to be thorough and they should be completed even if the underlying dispute is settled," said Jonathan Orleans, of Pullman & Comley, who was not involved in this case. "You want to establish a record of unearthing problems within your workplace."

Castelluccio began working for IBM in 1968 as a computer analyst and earned numerous promotions over four decades.

By 2005, he was named vice-president of public sector delivery for IBM's Integrated Technology Division. His performance reviews were always positive, according to his lawyer, Mark Carta, of Carta, McAlister & Moore in Darien. Castelluccio, a Stamford resident, worked out of IBM's Somers, N.Y., location in Westchester County. His career went smoothly until his supervisor retired in 2007 and Joanne Collins-Smee became the new general manager for IT delivery services for IBM locations in the U.S. and Canada and certain parts of Latin America.

A few weeks before Castelluccio's 60th birthday, Collins-Smee, in her very first meeting with Castelluccio, asked him his age and if he was interested in retiring. He said he had no interest. The next day, Collins-Smee sent an e-mail to the human resources department saying she wanted to replace Castelluccio and that things were not going well between him and her, and that Castelluccio would agree with that point. Castelluccio never knew of this e-mail until the discovery phase of the subsequent lawsuit, Carta said.

Carta said Collins-Smee mentioned possible retirement to Castelluccio on two more occasions. Carta said his client thought the first mention might have been a simple lapse in protocol, but Castelluccio became very concerned after she brought it up twice more. After the third mention, Castelluccio reported the conversation, and IBM launched an internal investigation.

At that point, Collins-Smee had already moved Castelluccio into another position, one in which the prior employee had quit because, Carta said, the workload truly required working seven days a week. The job included overseeing all of IBM's strategic outsourcing to other big companies, such as United Health Care.

Collins-Smee also wanted Castelluccio to continue with some of his previous vice-president tasks. "It was clearly a move calculated to have him quit because it was an impossible task," said Carta. "But he did not quit. He hung in there."

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