IBM faces racism claim

Roisin Woolnough

A former research associate at IBM is taking the company to court claiming race discrimination.

Kevin Marsh...

Roisin Woolnough

A former research associate at IBM is taking the company to court claiming race discrimination.

Kevin Marsh said he was unfairly treated when he worked for Business Innovation Services (BIS), the management consulting division of IBM (UK), as a knowledge management research associate.

The case went before an employment tribunal at a regional court on 30 October, but the judge extended the hearing from two days to seven, and adjourned the case until 18 June.

Marsh has alleged he suffered discrimination on four counts. He said he was the only black person at his level in the division and the only one to be hired by BIS on short fixed-term contracts (FTC).

He said that while working for BIS he was given a two-year FTC, a six-month FTC and a three-month FTC, while all other employees were either offered four-year FTCs or permanent contracts.

Marsh said he was not promoted to a management consulting position, despite gaining considerable consulting experience with clients and completing all the management consulting courses provided by IBM. "When there were available jobs and opportunities I wasn't offered them," he said.

Just before his last contract ended on 31 March, Marsh said his division employed four new recruits for consulting positions and promoted another person. He also claimed that throughout his time at BIS, other individuals were credited and rewarded with his consulting contribution.

Lawrence Davies, a solicitor specialising in employment law who is also manager of the London Race Discrimination Unit, is representing Marsh during the case. "Marsh said his conditions at work were less favourable than for other people in terms of bonuses, for example," said Davies. "He got some, but not proportionally to other staff."

On 21 February, Marsh issued a written complaint via IBM's internal grievance procedure. He claimed the issue was investigated and managed by the individuals he had a grievance against. "Then, they decided not to renew my contract," said Marsh. "My contract ended on 31 March - no reasons were given and I received their answer [to the complaint] on 4 April, after I had left."

IBM has refused to provide any comment on the case, but Davies said the company denies the allegations.

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