- IBM's age discrimination woes continued on Monday when Boston-based attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan filed a federal age discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in New York on behalf of three plaintiffs seeking class-action status, reports The Boston Globe. Liss-Riordan has taken on big tech before, including representing workers in cases against Google, Uber and Amazon.
- The plaintiffs allege IBM is "systematically laying off its older employees in order to build a younger workforce" as well as not hiring older employees for vacant positions. The complaint alleges IBM has trimmed more than 20,000 jobs in the U.S. held by employees over the age of 40 in the last five years, building off of a ProPublica report from March detailing the company's hiring practices against older workers.
- A statement from IBM VP Edward Barbini said changes in workforce are the result of shifting skill profiles and not of age discrimination. He said the age of IBM's U.S. workforce has remained the same since 2010, reports the Globe.
The ProPublica report found that IBM was skirting the Age-Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by removing "age" from the list of bias claims employees waived for severance pay. Instead, employees were asked to sign agreements that they would use arbitration instead of lawsuits as the avenue for age claims in order to receive severance pay.
A "substantial number" of employees signed the agreements for arbitration, and Liss-Riordan is also offering representation to individuals in these cases, reports the Globe. But because severance was "so small," many declined to sign the agreements; these laid off workers could join the complaint if class-action status is granted.
IBM isn't the only tech giant under scrutiny for age discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched a formal investigation into Intel this summer for allegedly targeting older workers in a series of 10,000 global job cuts over a three year period.
In technology, estimates believe anywhere from 40%-50% of the workforce is comprised of millennials, while just over a quarter are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Many of these older workers fear losing their jobs "all the time," according to an Indeed survey.
Some sectors require older workers with knowledge of legacy systems and architectures that younger workers are less likely to learn.
But technology is changing fast, so much so that students coming out of four-year college programs sometimes are behind on relevant skills when they graduate and enter the workforce. Bootcamps and retraining programs are critical to reskill and upskill current and incoming technology workers to maintain relevancy.