Discrimination against older workers still a threat

Many older workers in Arizona may be concerned about the potential of facing age discrimination in the workplace, even when they are employed by well-established corporations. For example, a recent report from ProPublica and Mother Jones magazine revealed extensive allegations of age discrimination at IBM, long a company ostensibly known for long-term careers that honored seniority. In the past five years, however, the corporation may have laid off approximately 20,000 workers aged 40 and up in the United States, although that number is almost certainly an underestimate.

These layoffs came as part of an attempt to systematically replace older workers with younger workers, allege former workers, a violation of civil rights law. In some cases, employees were laid off after decades with the company and their jobs were outsourced to overseas workers or to lower-paid, younger domestic workers. The reports note that the change in approach at IBM coincided with a decision to move their business model toward one centered on cloud services.

However, the report indicates that it was not simply a matter of shifting to workers with greater knowledge in the new field. On the contrary, presentations to senior executives openly discussed creating a "correct seniority mix" that would include more "early professional hires," thinly disguised language to indicate laying off older workers and replacing them with younger ones. Former workers noted that their performance reviews showed a sudden downward trend or that they were pressured into accepting unwanted early retirement practices. In addition, they were discouraged from being rehired elsewhere in the company.

Age discrimination, like workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion or national origin, is prohibited in the United States. Workers who have been laid off, fired or demoted due to being older than 40 may benefit from speaking with an employment lawyer. The attorney may be able to help them to protect their rights and seek accountability for corporate violations of civil rights law.

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