Class-Action Suit Expanded Against IBM - InformationWeek
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3/14/2006
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Class-Action Suit Expanded Against IBM

Attorneys for plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit against International Business Machines Corp. seeking overtime pay announced that the suit has expanded to include state claims in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

MANHASSET, N.Y. — Attorneys for plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against International Business Machines Corp. seeking overtime pay announced that the suit has expanded to include state claims in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and New Jersey.

The suit already included claims for overtime pay under federal law for all U.S. workers, along with state claims in California and New York.

The growing number of plaintiffs, seeking to represent tens of thousands of current and former technical support workers, alleges that IBM failed to pay overtime wages. Claims under other states' laws may be added in the future.

IBM employs over 300,000 workers. The proposed class action suit includes tens of thousand of systems administrators, network technicians and other technical staff throughout the U.S.

"This case could result in one of the largest class action lawsuits in history, both in numbers of employees and total damages, ever filed against a corporation for failure to pay overtime wages," said James Finberg, an attorney with Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, one of eight law firms representing the plaintiffs.

The suit further tarnishes the reputation of IBM, a company once known for relatively harmonious labor relations. More recently, it has incurred worker anger over cost- and job-cutting actions.

The most recent of these occurred in January, when IBM said it would halt pension plan contributions starting in 2008, and move all employees to a 401K plan.

In addition, IBM has come under increasing scrutiny for outsourcing technical positions to lower-wage nations such as India.

The amended class action complaint alleges violations of federal law on behalf of IBM high-tech workers as well as violations of the labor laws of California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. "Workers from anywhere in the United States are eligible to participate in the case as well," explained Todd Jackson of Lewis, Feinberg, Renaker & Jackson, P.C.

The lawsuit alleges that IBM unlawfully characterized high-tech workers as "exempt" from state and federal labor law protections. The worker classifications include current and former IBM technical support workers who installing or maintain IBM software and hardware. It alleges that they were wrongly classified by IBM as exempt from the overtime provisions of federal law or applicable state wage and hour laws.

The complaint against IBM was originally filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Jan. 24, 2006, and amended on Monday (March 13).

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