Companies may have many reasons for ending employment for older workers, but if age is one of them, then termination is illegal. Federal and state laws say that age is a protected class for those over 40.
ProPublica reports that a well-known tech company may have wrongfully terminated thousands of older employees for age-related reasons over the past few years.
Investigating statistics and a document trail
An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation report indicates that more than 85% of the employees that IBM fired between 2013 and 2018 were 40 years old or older. The report also stated that upper-level management messages clarified that the aggressive reduction in older staff was an intentional strategy.
Analyzing the wage reduction
How do employers benefit from age-related terminations? While older employees may have more experience, they are typically more expensive, as well, due to years of salary increases and bonuses that often come with seniority. Employers can often hire new employees at a much lower pay rate.
Not only did IBM allegedly document saving money with “early professional hires,” but it appears the company also re-hired some of its older employees — as independent contractors. Employers do not have to pay taxes or provide benefits to independent contractors.
Proceeding with litigation
When the EEOC receives complaints like those of the former IBM employees, representatives attempt to reach a settlement between the company and the employees. According to WRAL TechWire, the case against IBM will not settle; it will proceed to court.
The judge will only hear the complaints that the EEOC initially received from employees. Other employees may join if their complaint is the same, but no one can enter a new complaint. This highlights the importance of reporting an illegal employer action to the EEOC regardless of whether others have similar issues and have already reported.
Documents that employees may gather as evidence of wrongful termination may include their employee file, work communications from supervisors and performance reviews.