According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), tech giant IBM discriminated against thousands of older workers laid off by the company from 2013 to 2018.

In late August, the agency notified a group of ex-employees that IBM routinely ignored laws that protect workers from age discrimination in hiring and firing.

Discrimination was encouraged “straight from the top”

In a letter, the EEOC said its investigation uncovered messaging from top-level leaders at the company directing managers to aggressively reduce the number of older workers to make room for younger employees.

The agency’s ruling may apply to as many as 6,000 ex-IBM workers – a number expected to grow if the findings spur private lawsuits. The company faces millions of dollars in settlement payments related to the ruling, or a federal lawsuit if no agreement is reached.

Ruling backs up ProPublica investigation

In a report released by the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica in 2018, an investigation concluded 60% of IBM’s U.S. workers laid off over the previous five years were age 40 or older. Federal and state age discrimination laws protect workers in this category.

ProPublica says IBM systematically denied these workers information they were entitled to under the law to determine whether they had been discriminated against. Furthermore, the group says IBM used point systems stacked against older workers – even those rated as high performers.

Fighting age discrimination

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protect California workers over age 40. An experienced age discrimination lawyer can help workers whose rights are violated collect damages for lost wages and benefits as well as for pain and suffering.

Successful age discrimination lawsuits can result when the worker is part of the protected class and suffers adverse employment actions, such as being fired, suspended or demoted. Their rights are also violated when employers treat others outside the protected class more favorably or differently.