Former Qwest CIO files severance suit
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News

Friday, May 13, 2005

Former Qwest Chief Information Officer Al-Noor Ramji has sued the Denver telco, alleging it reneged on more than $4 million worth of bonus and severance benefits.

Ramji, who worked at Qwest from June 2001 to spring 2004, oversaw the company's information technology division during most of his tenure until Barry Allen took over his responsibilities as part of a company reorganization.
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In a suit filed this week in Denver federal court, Ramji alleges he was notified his services were no longer required on March 17, 2004, but, because of his immigration and family status, negotiations continued over his official termination date.  He moved his family to Denver from London and moved back after his employment ended at Qwest.

He claims in the lawsuit that Qwest initially agreed to pay him severance and other benefits and forgive the remaining installment of a $400,000 loan, but subsequently refused to do so after he landed a job as chief information officer for the BT Group, the London-based communications giant.

Qwest spokesman Robert Toevs said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.  In announcing its company reorganization in March 2004, Qwest described Ramji's role as technical adviser to Allen.

Ramji's suit claims his employment agreement with Qwest entitled him to a severance equal to 18 months of his base salary and target bonus and 18 months of continued health and dental benefits as long as he wasn't fired for gross misconduct.

In addition, he claims Qwest had agreed in 2001 to forgive the $400,000 loan over three years unless he voluntarily left the company and that he was entitled to participate in a bonus program that guaranteed him $4 million by Jan. 31, 2006, as long as he didn't voluntarily leave.

His attorney Karen Wentzel declined comment except to say by e-mail:  "As set forth in the complaint, he is suing Qwest for breach of his employment contract to recover severance benefits he was entitled to when his employment was terminated as a result of an internal reorganization at Qwest."

Ramji, who was Qwest's chief information officer toward the end of former CEO Joe Nacchio's tenure, had mixed reviews.  Many, especially former U S West computer employees, were concerned about the information-technology work being done overseas and the potential for further outsourcing.