IBM systematically sought to sack older workers, according to the United States Equal Opportunity and Opportunity Commission (EOOC).
That opinion was expressed in an EOOC determination regarding claims lodged by more than 60 people who alleged “they and a class of similarly situated individuals were discharged based on their age.”
The letter, uncovered by ProPublica, says names IBM as the respondent and denies discrimination, or any directive to managers. “Respondent asserts that Charging Parties] were discharged as part of a series of Resource Actions designed to reduce headcounts and decrease costs.” (‘Charging Parties’ are complainants and ‘Resource Action’ is IBM-speak for making people redundant.)
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The EOOC dismissed those allegations and said its investigation found “top-down messaging from Respondent’s highest ranks directing managers to engage in an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers to make room for Early Professional Hires.”
The letter says that many older workers were told their skills were out-of-date, but later re-hired as contractors “at a lower rate of pay with fewer benefits.”
IBM ordered 'an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers to make room for Early Professional Hires'
“EOOC received corroborating testimony from dozens of witnesses nationwide supporting a discriminatory animus based on age,” the letter states. “Based on the above, the Respondent’s asserted defence does not withstand scrutiny”.
US law means the next step is for IBM and complainants to enter into a conciliation process with its accusers.
In a previous and similar case IBM settled with a former worker who alleged age discrimination, seemingly because executive emails directing age discrimination appeared to be available to prosecutors.
The EOOC’s Determination suggests it certainly saw something that justifies its statement regarding “top-down messaging” from inside IBM that directed age discrimination. ®