IBM is Being Accused of Widespread Age Discrimination

A former HR leader said that massive layoffs were part of an effort to appeal to millennials.
By: | August 2, 2019 • 3 min read

Former IBM vice president of HR Alan Wild said during a recent court deposition that the company laid off as many as 100,000 employees in recent years as it strove to appear as “cool” and “trendy” as Amazon and Google, reports Bloomberg.

Wild’s deposition took place as part of a civil suit filed in Texas by former employee Jonathan Langley, a 61-year-old who claims IBM fired him due to his age after nearly 25 years at the company. Two other individual civil suits accusing the company of age discrimination have been filed in California and Pennsylvania, while a class-action lawsuit against it has been filed in Manhattan, reports Bloomberg.

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In his deposition, Wild said IBM had “laid off 50,000 to 100,000 employees in just the last several years,” according to a court document filed in Texas on Tuesday.

IBM, at one time the nation’s dominant technology company, was struggling to catch up to rivals such as Amazon in the cloud computing business and badly needed new tech talent. In his deposition, Wild said the company wanted to show millennial-age talent that it was not “an old fuddy duddy organization” but instead a “cool, trendy organization” like Amazon or Google. Court documents reveal that IBM did that by targeting its older workforce via rolling layoffs over several years, Bloomberg reports.

Read more HERE about how to keep your organization out of legal pitfalls.

Earlier this year, ProPublica and Mother Jones published a joint investigation that estimated IBM has terminated the employment of more than 20,000 American employees over the age of 40 during the past five years. That number accounts for approximately 60 percent of the company’s total estimated U.S. job cuts, according to the report.

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Here is a statement from IBM Vice President of Corporate Communications Edward Barbini in response to the Bloomberg story:

“We have reinvented IBM in the past five years to target higher value opportunities for our clients. As part of this reinvention, we have made major investments in our skills and in new businesses, such as Watson Health, and in people with expertise in critical new areas such as cloud, analytics and quantum and blockchain technologies. We have also transitioned to a less labor-intensive business model and have divested some of our operations. The company hires 50,000 employees each year, and spends nearly a half-billion dollars on training our team. We also receive more than 8,000 job applications every day, the highest rate that we’ve ever experienced, so there’s clear excitement about IBM’s strategy and direction for the future.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine is senior editor at Human Resource Executive®. A Penn State graduate, Andy also spent two years in the U.S. Army prior to attending college and attained the rank of sergeant while serving in the Army Reserves. He can be reached at [email protected]