In March, ProPublica and Mother Jones published a report detailing employee claims that IBM’s layoff strategy in recent years has been designed to lower the age of its workforce. Two weeks ago, word came that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has launched a nationwide investigation into IBM’s practices.
Now, Intel has joined the that ignominious group. According to The Wall Street Journal, the EEOC has, since November, been investigating Intel’s 2015 and 2016 layoffs for potential discrimination against older employees.
Again, press reports led the way. The Oregonian reported in June 2016 that the first phase of Intel’s planned 12,000-worker reduction in head count—which would cull 2300 employees from the company’s workforce—disproportionately targeted older workers. People over 40 were twice as likely to get the ax as those under 40, said the paper; workers over 60 were eight times as likely to be terminated as those under 30. The 2015 layoffs fit a similar profile, the Oregonian indicated. (Unlike IBM, Intel has been providing the legally required data about the layoffs to employees, including the total number affected and the age breakdown.) Anecdotal evidence catalogued at TheLayoff.com at the time of the cuts also pointed to concerns that older engineers were being heavily targeted.
In a statement to the Oregonian, Intel denied using age as a criterion, and said that “Personnel decisions were based solely upon skill sets and business needs to support that evolution.” The rationale is similar to the “workforce rebalancing” criteria IBM has said it has employed in selecting jobs to cut.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.