Employee accuses IBM of ‘disability discrimination’

The said employee has been on sick leave since 2008, but complains that his salary has not increased since then


An employee of IBM, working as an IT specialist, has been on sick leave since 2008. As per the health plan offered by the company, the said employee whose name is Ian Clifford, enjoys over Rs 55,30,556 annually, and will continue to receive it till the age of 65. Yet, the employee is not satisfied. He is accusing IBM of discriminating against him because of his disability, by not giving him a raise in the past 15 years that he has been home! In fact, he has taken IBM to court.

Interestingly, Clifford’s LinkedIn profile says he has been ‘medically retired’ since 2013.

His grouse is that the salary he is being paid is not generous, as its value will dwindle over a period of time, owing to rising cost of living.

Clifford first complained in 2013, following which IBM offered a ‘compromise agreement’ as per which he was covered under the company’s disability plan. That means, he remained an employee but wasn’t obliged to work, and would not be dismissed either. The plan allows employee the right to be paid 75 per cent of his/her agreed income until the employee retires or dies, whichever happens earlier. Since Clifford’s salary was about 72,000 pounds, he was eligible for about 54,000 pounds a year post deduction of 25 per cent. This plan was applicable for 30 years, that is, till he reached 65, when he would retire.

However, Clifford, sued IBM in February last year, accusing the company of failing to provide him security, as the payout was frozen. The employment tribunal has dismissed his claims pointing out that he was receiving a significant benefit and was being treated favourably. The judge has pointed out that the fact that active employees are eligible for pay raises and inactive employees are not has nothing to do with disability. The plan he was covered under was a disability-benefit plan, so there was no question of it being discriminatory. The Judge observed that even if the value of the benefit reduced 50 per cent over three decades, the benefit would still remain quite substantial.

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