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MIT Technology Review

IBM is facing allegations of rampant age discrimination

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One of America’s oldest technology companies has reportedly been unfairly pushing out its older workers.

The news: ProPublica and Mother Jones report that to stay competitive with the rest of Big Tech, IBM decided to make its team more youthful and international. To do that, the firm cut its staff by three-quarters from its peak in the 1980s, sending many jobs overseas and tending to hire younger, lower-paid workers.

What IBM did: ProPublica claims IBM stacked the deck against older workers by:

      — Failing to give them legally required information about age discrimination
      — Targeting them for layoffs and firings even when they were known to be top performers
      — Boosting retirements, resignations, and firings over layoffs to avoid triggering public disclosure requirements

The result: In the past five years, 60 percent of job cuts at IBM—that’s more than 20,000 employees—have affected workers who were 40 or older.

Illegal action? Mother Jones uncovered internal documents and compiled worker experiences that seem to show discriminatory practices like virtually mandatory retirement. “The law says taking a retirement package has to be voluntary,” Joseph Seiner, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, told Mother Jones. “If you tell somebody ‘Retire or we’ll lay you off or fire you,’ that’s not voluntary.”

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