IBM Accused of Ageism, Writes Forbes
Older Workers Are ‘Dinobabies’ Who Should Be Made An ‘Extinct Species’
Article originally appeared in Forbes.com Editor's Pick Feb 12, 2022 by Jack Kelly, Founder and CEO of The Compliance Search Group and Wecruiter.io; Co-host of the Blind Ambition Podcast
In September 2018, a sweeping investigation highlighted the alleged abuses of age discrimination within the technology industry. It was reported that IBM fired about 20,000 American employees over the age of 40, which amounts to about 60% of its total U.S. job cuts during the time period in question.
The investigation included stories gathered from over 1,100 former IBM employees. Shannon Liss-Riordan filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of three former IBM employees who say the tech company discriminated against them based on their age when it fired them.
This week, as reported by Bloomberg, “IBM executives discussed in emails how to force out older workers and derided them as “dinobabies” who should be made an “extinct species,” according to a court filing in an age discrimination case against the company. The filings revealed communications showing “highly incriminating animus” against older employees by officials who at the time were in the company’s “highest ranks.”
The reporting asserts that in an email chain, there was a plan to “accelerate change by inviting the ‘dinobabies’ (new species) to leave” and turn them into an “extinct species.” Bloomberg added, “Company officials also complained about IBM’s ‘dated maternal workforce’ that ‘must change,’ and discussed frustration that IBM had a much lower share of Millennials in its workforce than a competitor, but said its share would increase following layoffs, according to the filing.”
In a statement, an IBM spokesperson said the tech company “never engaged in systematic age discrimination and it terminated employees because of changing business conditions, not because of their age.” In 2020, the median age of employees in the U.S hovered around 48 years, the same as in 2010, according to the statement. The spokesperson added that the language used in the emails “is not consistent with the respect IBM has for its employees and as the facts clearly show, it does not reflect company practices or policies.”
In a court deposition, a former human resources professional said—in the effort to recruit and retain younger personnel—IBM had to show that the once preeminent tech leader wasn’t “an old fuddy-duddy organization” and needed to appear “as [a] cool, trendy organization.”
Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney representing IBM workers, said, “IBM has engaged in egregious age discrimination. IBM has tried to use arbitration clauses to shield that evidence from the public and other employees who are trying to build their cases of discrimination.”