Some older employees of IBM in California might have faced age discrimination on the job. According to a report by “Pro Publica” and “Mother Jones,” the company employs a number of methods to push out workers who are over 40 such as laying them off, firing them, giving them a choice between moving to a distant city or quitting, and saying that their skills are out of date but then rehiring them as contractors at a lower pay with fewer benefits.
The report estimates that over 20,000 employees older than 40 have been cut from the company’s work force. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination against people who are 40 and older, but IBM denies that it has practiced age discrimination. The company no longer includes ages along with other information about people whose jobs are being cut. It also stopped requiring employees to waive the right to file a lawsuit for age bias in order to take severance, but it replaced it by requiring private arbitration. This is a process that tends to favor employers over employees.
The report says there was also internal communication indicating that the company discouraged the rehire of older workers. Other employees said they felt they would be fired if they did not take a so-called “voluntary” retirement.
People who feel they are facing discrimination at work for any reason, including age discrimination, might want to talk to an attorney. The attorney may be able to assess the situation and to determine whether it is a case of discrimination based on a protected characteristic. The attorney may also be able to make suggestions for documenting the discrimination and other types of communication. For example, an employer might claim that a person was terminated for performance reasons, but if the person has emails and reports that contradict this, it could be helpful.