ProPublica and Mother Jones today jointly published a comprehensive report alleging that IBM has ignored age discrimination laws for years in an attempt to oust employees over 40 and replace them with younger workers. The company is believed to have fired about 20,000 US employees over the last five years, although the real number is believed to be "almost certainly higher."
Those employees – some of them abandoned after IBM careers spanning decades – saw their jobs delivered to "less experienced and less paid workers" or sent abroad. The damning investigative report was selected from a questionnaire completed by more than 1,100 former IBM employees who shared their experiences, interviews, official company documents and more.
The cuts coincided with IBM's transition to a business focused on cloud services and data analysis. Apparently, that change made IBM feel compelled to achieve a "correct combination of seniority" and "change personnel by a higher percentage of early professional hiring," according to the presentations that were shown to the company's top executives, including the vice president of human resources.
Former workers say that performance evaluations suddenly became much tougher with the pivot in the business approach. Some felt compelled to accept an early retirement package when the alternative was shooting directly. IBM encouraged some of those affected to apply for jobs elsewhere in the company, but ProPublica found internal communications that discouraged managers from re-hiring them.
Even when they were brought back, they found a lower salary and reduced benefits. Employees had to accept private arbitration to receive compensation, leaving them on their own to prove that IBM had made mistakes with the age discrimination laws. Many have had difficulty finding new suitable jobs after being eliminated by IBM. "It's hard when you've worked all your life," said Brian Paulson, a senior official who IBM abruptly dismissed after 18 years. "Once you reach a certain age, you do not hear a word of the places you apply for."
IBM statement in the report:
We are proud of our company and the ability of our employees to reinvent themselves again and again, while complying with the law. Our ability to do this is the reason why we are the only technology company that has not only survived but has thrived for more than 100 years.
The full report of ProPublica / Mother Jones is a must read and an instructive look at an unconditional of the dominant technology. There is also a separate article that details how the reporters were supplied with the help of a digital community of former IBMers.