In September 2018, there was a sweeping investigation highlighting the alleged abuses of age discrimination within the technology industry. It was reported that IBM fired about 20,000 American employees over the age of 40, which amounts to about 60% of its total U.S. job cuts during the time period in question.
The investigation included stories gathered from over 1,100 former IBM employees. Shannon Liss-Riordan filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of three former IBM employees who say the tech company discriminated against them based on their age when it fired them.
This week, according to Bloomberg, “IBM executives discussed in emails how to force out older workers and derided them as “Dinobabies” who should be made an “Extinct species,” according to a court filing in an age discrimination case against the company. The filings revealed communications showing “highly incriminating animus” against older employees by officials who at the time were in the company’s “highest ranks.”
The reporting asserts that in an email chain there was a plan to “accelerate change by inviting the ‘dinobabies’ (new species) to leave” and turn them into an “Extinct species.” Bloomberg added, “Company officials also complained about IBM’s “dated maternal workforce” that “must change,” and discussed frustration that IBM had a much lower share of millennials in its workforce than a competitor, but said its share would increase following layoffs, according to the filing.”
In a statement, an IBM spokesperson said the tech company “never engaged in systematic age discrimination and it terminated employees because of changing business conditions, not because of their age.” In 2020, the median age of employees in the U.S hovered around 48 years of age, the same as it was in 2010, according to the statement. The spokesperson added that the language used in the emails “is not consistent with the respect IBM has for its employees and as the facts clearly show, it does not reflect company practices or policies.”
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In a court deposition, a former Human Resources professional said—in the effort to recruit and retain younger personnel—IBM had to show that the once preeminent tech leader wasn’t “an old fuddy duddy organization” and needed to appear “as [a] cool, trendy organization.”
Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney representing IBM workers, said, “IBM has engaged in egregious age discrimination,” and “IBM has tried to use arbitration clauses to shield that evidence from the public and other employees who are trying to build their cases of discrimination.”
Reuters reported on the matter, writing, “Severance agreements signed by former IBM Corp employees bar them from suing as a group over claims that they were laid off to make room for younger workers, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.” Reuters added, “A unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said provisions in the agreements that waived the workers’ rights to bring class-action claims were valid, because the ability to sue as a class is not a substantive right under the federal law prohibiting age discrimination in employment.”