In previous decades, the real-life and on-the-job experience that workers 40 and older brought to the workplace was valued by employers that, in an effort to retain seasoned workers, willingly doled out promotions and higher salaries. This included technology companies like IBM.
Today, newer high-tech companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon thrive on business models driven by innovation as these companies capitalize on their ability to anticipate and quickly adapt to economic and market shifts and changes. These high-tech companies also widely attribute their success to their ability to attract and retain skilled millennial employees.
Uncovering Rampant Age Discrimination
Citing a failure to adapt and innovate quickly enough, in recent years, institutional technology companies like IBM have ramped up recruitment of recent college grads and millennials. According to a recent investigative report by Pro Publica, however, they have done so while taking steps to systematically push out employees 40 and older.
The report, which cites firsthand accounts by both former and current employees as well as internal company documents, puts forth evidence of widespread age discrimination at IBM offices across the U.S. in the form of sudden and inexplicable layoffs and even forced retirements.
The plan for targeting and reducing the number of employees in their 40s, 50s and 60s is well-documented in numerous IBM policies, legal memos and emails, some of which even openly refer to these employees as “old heads” and “gray hairs.” Also documented is the company’s plan to aggressively ramp up recruitment of so-called early professionals born after 1980.
Since 2013, IBM has cut approximately 20,000 positions in the U.S. According to Pro Publica, an estimated 60 percent of these employees were 40 or older. For many of these highly skilled and effective employees, finding other comparable positions has been a struggle as they are passed over in favor of younger, less-experienced hires. Consequently, these workers often suffer long-term unemployment or underemployment, which leads to severe economic losses.
Taking Legal Action Against Age Discrimination
Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, employees 40 and older are protected from age discrimination, harassment based on age, and wrongful termination or other types of retaliation from complaining of age discrimination or harassment. New York City and State Human Rights laws also prohibit discrimination in employment based on age but it applies to persons of all ages (not just persons 40 years or older). Unfortunately, a significant percentage of U.S. employers across all business sectors engage in hiring, training, retention and firing practices that single out and target or exclude workers in this age demographic.
If you believe that a current or former employer has engaged in business practices and behaviors that constitute age discrimination, it is important to obtain legal advice and learn more about your options. The economic, emotional and mental toll that these types of discriminatory and illegal employment practices exact on employees and their families is significant and wronged employees may be able to recover compensation.