IBM Under Scrutiny for Age Bias in Layoffs

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 25, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

IBM, one of the largest employers in the world, is paying closer attention to its layoffs these days.

With more than 380,000 workers worldwide, it was already a touchy issue when the company announced 10,000 layoffs in January. But in the spotlight of a new report, it looks like IBM systematically laid off 20,000 older Americans in recent years.

While the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking into IBM's numbers, corporate attorneys might want to double-check their own.

'Cutting Old Head Heads'

In a story titled "Cutting Old Heads at IBM," ProPublica reported that the company targeted employees ages 40 and older. IBM did it, the non-profit publication said, despite the fact that older workers had better performance reviews.

"In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination," Peter Gosselin and Ariana Tobin wrote for the watchdog ezine.

David Lopez, former general counsel for the EEOC, says it is a serious problem for IBM.

"Whenever you see the EEOC pulling cases and sending them to investigations, you know they're taking things seriously," he said. "I suspect IBM's treatment of its later-career workers and older applicants is going to get a thorough vetting."

More Layoffs

IBM has denied the allegations, but also continues with layoffs. Workers have been told in the United States and other countries that they will soon lose their jobs.

In March, the company said it would make cuts in various key areas. On social media this week, employees said at least 40 workers were being let go at a Cleveland location.

The company says the recent layoffs are part of "talent balancing" to accelerate cognitive computing, social, mobile and security services.

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