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EEOC Finds IBM Engaged in Pattern of Age Discrimination

On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a decision finding that IBM engaged in a pattern of systemic age discrimination between 2013 and 2018.

In its investigation, the EEOC discovered “top-down messaging that (IBM’s) highest ranks direct[ed] managers to engage in an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers to make room” for younger workers. The agency’s analysis showed that 85% of workers considered for layoff were older. The EEOC found that many older, laid-off employees were told that their skills were out of date but then IBM brought them back in as contractors for reduced wages and benefits. Testimony acquired by the EEOC supported a finding of nationwide discriminatory animus based on age. ProPublica issued a report in March 2018 showing that about 60% of U.S. employees ousted by IBM in the previous five years were over 40 years of age. According to the report, IBM denied older workers important information they were entitled to review and which might have reflected whether they were subjected to age bias.

In response to the EEOC finding, IBM issued a statement denying that it had discriminated against employees based on their age. “IBM makes decisions based on the needs of its business units, not age.” Next, the EEOC will attempt to mediate an out-of-court settlement between IBM and the workers who were part of the class. If no resolution is reached, the EEOC may pursue further action in court.