Intel, one of the grand old statesmen of the tech world, is under investigation for potential age discrimination in its approach to layoffs initiated in 2016, according to a new Wall Street Journal report. At the heart of the matter is the perception and allegation that Intel sought to get rid of older employees and retain younger ones instead. That’s good for the company, as older workers tend to be better paid, more aware and assertive of their rights, and more likely to have families and make use of company benefits — but such age bias is not something that US employers are allowed to engage in.
Two years ago, when announcing its layoffs and restructuring, Intel indicated that it would be a process that stretches into 2017 and would involve a mix of voluntary and involuntary redundancies. The WSJ reports that “dozens of former employees sought legal advice on whether they could sue” and some of them lodged complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whose documentation of the Journal has seen.
For its part, Intel maintains that “factors such as age, race, national origin, gender, immigration status, or other personal demographics were not part of the process when we made those decisions.” And yet, the WSJ’s review of Intel’s own internal documents reveals that in one set of 2,300 layoffs, the median age was 49 years old, seven years older than the median age of the remaining staff.
It is now up to the EEOC to make a determination on the merits of the complaints that it has received. If the federal watchdog finds sufficient grounds to pursue the matter further, it can initiate a class-action lawsuit against Intel.
Intel’s age discrimination case is becoming public only a couple of months after the publication of an exhaustive report into allegedly widespread age discrimination within IBM. It’s ironic for companies like Intel and IBM, who are themselves among the oldest in the still-young computer industry, to be treating their more senior employees in this fashion. Then again, it’s also logical that age discrimination would manifest itself most strongly at companies that have operated for many decades and have a staff of employees that have aged along with their employer.