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An IT worker who has been on sick leave for 15 years sued IBM for not raising his $67,000 salary while he was off work.

  • An IT worker who’s been on sick leave for 15 years sued IBM for not giving him a pay raise.
  • But an employment judge dismissed the case, saying it did not amount to disability discrimination.
  • The worker, who has leukemia, currently receives 54,028, or $67,732, a year from IBM.

But an employment judge struck down the case, saying the claims did not amount to disability discrimination and that, if anything, the worker had received favorable treatment, according to a ruling published last week.

Ian Clifford, 50, started sick leave in September 2008 for mental-health-related reasons and was still off work in 2013, having been diagnosed with stage-four leukemia, when he raised a grievance that said he had not received a salary increase or vacation pay during those five years, per The Telegraph.

In April 2013, Clifford reached a “compromise agreement” with IBM that meant he was put on the company’s sickness-and-accident plan, which entitled him to receive 75% of his salary until he retired or otherwise ceased to be on the plan.

Under the plan, he would receive 54,028, or $67,732, per year until he turned 65.

But in February 2022, Clifford took IBM to an employment tribunal with disability discrimination claims similar to those in his 2013 grievance.

He said he was treated unfavorably because he had no salary increase since joining the plan in 2013.

Clifford said that it was disability discrimination not to increase the payments while he was off work sick because inflation was causing the value of his income to “wither,” per the employment-tribunal judgment.

“The point of the plan was to give security to employees not able to work,” Clifford’s claim said. “That was not achieved if payments were forever frozen.”


Clifford was seeking a pay raise of 2.5%, per The Telegraph.

Paul Housego, an employment judge, dismissed the case in March, saying in the judgment: “It is not disability discrimination that the plan is not even more generous.”

He added that the payment plan was “very substantial” and that Clifford had been treated more favorably than “those not disabled” because he was being paid without having to work.

Clifford told The Telegraph that he took legal action not because he was “greedy” but because he wanted to provide financial security for his family and his son, who was at university. 

He added: “Your mortgage doesn’t go down because you are sick.”

He said that he had already appealed the ruling, per The Telegraph.

Clifford and IBM did not respond to requests for comment.

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