That’s the question at the heart of class-action lawsuit that was recently filed in Manhattan’s federal court. Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, of the firm Lichten and Liss-Riordan in Boston, did so on behalf of three former IBM employees who say they were fired by Big Blue, as it’s been known, due to age discrimination. In a statement in the suit, the former IBM employees assert that, “Over the last several years, IBM has been in the process of systematically laying off older employees in order to build a younger workforce.”
IBM had laid off more than 20,000 employees over the age of 40 in the past six years, according to an investigation.
The suit also leverages information from a recent report by ProPublica (an award-winning non-profit newsroom) that revealed that IBM had laid off more than 20,000 employees over the age of 40 in the past six years. Stop and take that in for a moment: Over 20,000 out of a workforce. That age group represents at least 60 percent of all jobs terminated by the technology firm in that time period.
IBM Layoffs: Breaking the Rules
The report also asserts that IBM broke an array of age-discrimination rules, and states, among other actions, that it “targeted people for layoffs and firings with techniques that tilted against older workers, even when the company rated them high performers. In some instances, the money saved from the departures went toward hiring young replacements.” According to Bloomberg, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating.
IBM is pushing back. “Changes in our workforce are about skills, not age,” Ed Barbini, a company spokesperson, has said in response to the lawsuit. “In fact, since 2010 there is no difference in the age of our U.S. workforce, but the skills profile of our employees has changed dramatically. That is why we have been and will continue investing heavily in employee skills and retraining — to make all of us successful in this new era of technology.’’
About 21,000 age-discrimination lawsuits are filed annually, and this could be one of the most high-profile ones to watch. And watch we will, to see what the courts have to say about our Tribe being shown the door at too many worplaces.