B1 Intermediate US 47 Folder Collection
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Imagine it's 1980.
Mullets are cool.
The Empire Strikes Back is playing in theaters.
And International Business
Machines or IBM is the world's dominant

technology firm.
It embodies the American
Dream with a progressive agenda of equal

opportunity and prides itself on a
stable workforce.

It's so thrilling to
see the new IBM personal system - in the
hands of an old master.

According to this
handbook in over 40 years, full-time
employees haven't been touched by layoffs.

People are a treasured resource
and are treated like one.

Fast forward to the present.
ProPublica estimates IBM has eliminated
20,000 American employees age 40 and
over in just the past five years.

That's about 60 percent of its estimated US job
cuts during that time.

How did IBM go
from valuing its older workforce to
systematically getting rid of them?

Through the '80s,
technology started shifting rapidly.
Among other things, Apple
introduced the first Macintosh and took

a direct shot at IBM.
It appears IBM
wants it all.

By the early 2000's IBM fell
further as new rivals like Google,
Facebook, and Amazon took the lead.

In our world the speed and tempo of modern
living are increasing at an

ever-accelerating rate.
And as it slipped,
IBM had to deal with something most of

these competitors didn't have: a large
number of experienced and aging

employees.
They reacted to new setbacks
with layoffs

and many of them were older workers.
ProPublica heard from over 1,400 former IBM employees.
Here's what we know.
In making staff cuts, IBM has side-stepped
US laws and regulations intended to
protect workers from age discrimination.

In the past, they would get two lists
from IBM. One that had ages of people

staying and another with ages of those
being let go.

In 2014
IBM stopped giving that information.
On top of that, the company required people
to sign away their rights to sue for age
discrimination in court, in exchange for

their severance packages.
By signing the
documents, laid-off employees waived the

right to go to court.
They could only
pursue their age cases through

confidential arbitration.
They also have
to do it solo, so they couldn't combine

forces with other workers who may be
claiming similar age discrimination.

Studies show arbitration overwhelmingly
favors employers.

Workers win only
19% of the time, when their
cases are arbitrated versus 36%

of the time when they go to
federal court and 57% in state courts.

IBM has also laid off and fired
some older workers with review

techniques that effectively made their
age a disadvantage.

Take the case of one
business unit that was using a point
system to evaluate workers.

The more
points a person got, the more protected
they were from negative changes to

employment.
But the system itself
appeared biased.

Employees were given
points for being relatively new at a job
level, so those who worked there fewer

years earned more points than long time
IBMers.

The bias against older workers is
evident when you compare the number of

points to years of service.
Those with no
points worked there an average of more

than thirty years.
Those with higher
points average fifteen years.

But the numbers don't
reflect worker skills.

80% of older, more
long-term employees, the ones with lower
points, were rated by the company itself

as "good enough to stay at current job
levels or be promoted",

while only a small
percentage of younger employees with
high numbers had similar ratings.

They've also converted many layoffs into
retirements, forcing ex-employees to

accept a retirement package or leave
with no benefits.

They've told remote
workers, including older ones who had
worked from home for years, to relocate

to offices potentially thousands of
miles away from their homes.

Their options were relocate or resign.
In response to all of these findings IBM
has said "we are proud of our company and
our employees ability to reinvent

themselves era after era while always
complying with the law."

The problem is
protection for workers under the law is
eroding.

In the past few decades, rulings
in age discrimination cases have said
former employees must prove that there

were no factors other than age involved
in their job changes, but companies like

IBM have made it near impossible to
prove that.

With nearly 400,000 employees
worldwide, IBM is still a tech giant.
And how it handles its older workforce could
encourage other companies to follow suit,
even though a lot of these companies

have a younger workforce now.
Here's the thing about aging: it happens to everyone
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How IBM quietly pushed out 20,000 older workers

47 Folder Collection
Evangeline published on April 24, 2018
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