In Castelluccio v. International Business Machines, a federal district court in Connecticut held that IBM could not introduce evidence of its investigation into an employee’s age discrimination claim due to the one-sided nature of the investigation.

Employee Castelluccio worked for IBM from 1968 to June 2008. In November 2007, IBM notified him that he would be removed from his position and put “on the bench” — he remained employed by the company (with pay), but had no real work assignment. Castelluccio looked for a different position within IBM. In early June 2008, IBM offered him a separation agreement and told him he would be terminated effective June 30, 2008, unless he could find another position at the company.

On June 13, 2008 — after receiving the separation agreement, but before his termination date — Castelluccio made an internal complaint of age discrimination to IBM. IBM then engaged a third party investigator (Mandel) to investigate his claim. Ultimately, Mandel concluded that there was no discrimination and conveyed the results of his investigation to Castelluccio following his termination.

Castelluccio moved the court to preclude IBM from introducing Mandel’s report, witness interview notes, and testimony regarding the investigation, claiming that it was more prejudicial than probative. The court agreed, noting that the evidence reflected only the findings and conclusion of IBM and not Castelluccio’s report of the events; that Mandel selected whom to interview and what evidence to consider without providing Castelluccio an opportunity to respond to any criticism made of him; and that the report did not include any evidence favorable to Castelluccio, such as his performance reviews or interviews with his previous managers or clients.

According to the court, the investigation focused more on Castelluccio’s performance than his complaint. Further, the court suspected that “the purpose of the investigation was more to exonerate IBM than to determine if Castelluccio was treated fairly.” Perhaps most offensive to the court was the fact that Mandel stated in an email that if Castelluccio signed a separation and release agreement, Mandel would stop investigating. The court noted that if the real purpose of the investigation was to find out whether an IBM employee had been mistreated, then the investigation would have continued regardless of whether Castelluccio signed the separation agreement. This case underscores the importance of a thorough, neutral investigation.