IBM’s ageism scandal: 5 ways the company reportedly screwed older workers

IBM’s ageism scandal: 5 ways the company reportedly screwed older workers
[Photo: Flickr user Cory Doctorow]

ProPublica and Mother Jones released the results of a sweeping investigation today that underscores the pernicious problem of age discrimination in tech. Over the last few years, the news outlets say, IBM shed some 20,000 American employees over 40, roughly 60% of its total U.S. job cuts during the time period. The investigation relied, in part, on personal accounts of more than 1,100 former IBM employees who shared their stories.

Here are five notable findings from the report:

  • Strategic conversion: The company allegedly converted job cuts into “voluntary” retirements or resignations as a way to avoid rules that require public disclosure of mass layoffs.
  • Churn and burn: The company reportedly “pushed out” workers over supposed “performance issues,” but then brought them back on as contract employees with lower pay and fewer benefits.
  • NDAs and muzzles: Some former IBM employees were allegedly strong-armed into signing agreements that prohibited them from going to court or talking about their experiences.
  • Hiring from without: Some employees targeted for layoffs were encouraged to apply for other positions within the company, but IBM allegedly advised hiring managers not to hire them.
  • One more thing: Because life is terrible, many of the workers reportedly had to train their own replacements.

Age discrimination is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, but it’s notoriously difficult to prove. In its response to ProPublica and Mother Jones, IBM said, “We are proud of our company and our employees’ ability to reinvent themselves era after era, while always complying with the law.

Do check out the full report here.