New Lawsuit Links IBM’s ‘Millennial’ Reinvention To Age Bias

After another round of company-wide layoffs this spring, IBM is being sued in federal court for age discrimination, according to multiple reports.

The pyramid-topped buildings at IBM's once bustling campus in Somers. The buildings are pictured in a view from Goldens Bridge.
The pyramid-topped buildings at IBM's once bustling campus in Somers. The buildings are pictured in a view from Goldens Bridge. Photo Credit: Daily Voice file

A lawsuit filed against the Armonk-based IBM by Jonathan Langley, 60, of Texas claims that in the international company's push to hire millennials and make money, the company let go of more experienced but costlier "gray-hairs." Millennials are defined as the generation born after 1980.

According to this lawsuit, Langley was fired last June as director of sales in IBM’s Hybrid Cloud business unit, based out of Austin.

According to a ProPublica/Mother Jones report, IBM has cut an estimated 20,000 U.S. employees ages 40 and over since 2014, about 60 percent of its American job cuts during those years.

The March ProPublica investigation of IBM found that the international company:

  • Denied older workers information the law says they need in order to decide whether they’ve been victims of age bias, and required them to sign away the right to go to court or join with others to seek redress.
  • Targeted people for layoffs and firings with techniques that tilted against older workers, even when the company rated them high performers. In some instances, the money saved from the departures went toward hiring young replacements.
  • Converted job cuts into retirements and took steps to boost resignations and firings. The moves reduced the number of employees counted as layoffs, where high numbers can trigger public disclosure requirements.
  • Encouraged employees targeted for layoff to apply for other IBM positions, while quietly advising managers not to hire them and requiring many of the workers to train their replacements.
  • Told some older employees being laid off that their skills were out of date, but then brought them back as contract workers, often for the same work at lower pay and fewer benefits.

IBM declined requests for the numbers or age breakdown of its job cuts. 

Langley's complaint  describes how IBM created an “early professionals” hiring program targeted solely at "digitally native" Millennials and exempted this category of employee from layoffs for nine months from their hire date, while making severe cuts elsewhere.

“In 2015 alone, IBM laid-off several tens of thousands of employees, the vast majority of whom were over the age of 40, and the greatest concentration of which were Baby Boomers,” according to the complaint.

“Not only does IBM shield its youngest workers from lay-off, at the same time as IBM has laid off thousands of Baby Boomers, it has aggressively recruited and hired many thousands of Millennials and members of Generations X and Z.”

Langley said he received good job performance reviews and was awarded a $20,000 performance bonus for the last quarter of 2016, the largest bonus on his team. 

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