IBM accused of widespread age discrimination in the US

In an unrelated civil court case, a former HR leader at IBM has said that massive layoffs were part of an effort to appeal to millennial talent.
By: | August 15, 2019

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, Bloomberg has reported.

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, the media agency has found.

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 July 30.

IBM, at one time the US’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 organisation” but instead a “cool, trendy organisation” like Amazon or Google. Court documents reveal that IBM did that by targeting its older workforce via rolling layoffs over several years, Bloomberg reports.

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% of the company’s total estimated job cuts in the US, according to the report.

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.”


This story was originally published on HRExecutive.comHRM Magazine Asia’s sister publication in the US.