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12/6/2006
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Chat Room Addicted IBM Worker Drops Age Discrimination Claim

The rest of Pacenza's lawsuit against IBM remains active. He claims he was wrongfully terminated by the computer maker for having an addiction to Internet chat rooms.

James Pacenza, the former IBM worker who claims he was fired for having an addiction to chat rooms, has dropped a claim that age discrimination was also part of IBM's motive for booting him.

In documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in New York, attorneys for Pacenza, 55, asked the court to drop the former Vietnam vet's age discrimination claim against IBM "without prejudice" -- legal parlance meaning Pacenza can later revive the charge. No reason was given for the move. The rest of Pacenza's lawsuit against IBM remains active. He claims he was wrongfully terminated by the computer maker for having an addiction to Internet chat rooms.

In his original complaint, Pacenza admitted that he spent time in chat rooms during work hours, but claimed his behavior is the result of an addiction and that IBM should have offered him counseling instead of firing him. Employees "with much more severe psychological problems, in the form of drug or alcohol problems ... are allowed treatment programs" at IBM, Pacenza argued.

IBM is expected to file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case this month, according to court records.

Pacenza worked in the raw materials preparation and photolithography departments at IBM's East Fishkill plant until May 2003, when he was fired. He originally sued IBM in 2004. Pacenza is seeking more than $5 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

IBM says Pacenza wasn't fired specifically for using a chat room, but because "he logged on a Web site that contained sexual content on an IBM-owned computer during the workday."

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