An Austin man has joined a growing chorus of former employees who claim technology giant IBM fired or laid them off because of their age.
Jonathan Langley, a 60-year-old former cloud salesman at IBM’s Austin operations, has filed a federal age discrimination lawsuit against the company.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleges that IBM forced Langley out after 24 years as a “successful employee” because of his age. The lawsuit also claims the company lied to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about its reason for terminating his employment.
“Had Mr. Langley been younger, and especially if he had been a millennial, IBM would not have fired him,” the lawsuit says.
MORE ONLINE: Click here to read the lawsuit.
Langley’s lawsuit comes in the wake of a March investigation by ProPublica and Mother Jones, which estimated that over the past five years, IBM has terminated the employment of more than 20,000 American employees who were older than 40. That number, according to the report, accounts for roughly 60 percent of the company’s total estimated U.S. job cuts.
ProPublica’s investigation led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch a nationwide probe into potential age bias at IBM, according to published reports.
ProPublica reported last month that the commission’s New York district office has begun consolidating individuals’ complaints and asking IBM to explain its practices. The commission has not publicly confirmed an ongoing investigation.
But in its response filed in court Thursday, IBM denied Langley’s allegations and concluded that he would have been terminated regardless of his age.
“Mr. Langley's case is without merit and missed the point, since colleagues who are older than him remain on his team,” Doug Shelton, an IBM spokesman, said in a statement Thursday. “IBM makes its employment decisions based on skills and business conditions -- not age -- and we're eager to defend against this unfounded case in the courts.”
IBM is one of the largest technology employers in the Austin metro area, with an estimated 6,000 workers here. The company was one of the pioneers of Austin’s tech sector, as it has had operations in Austin since 1967.
Langley’s lawsuit claims IBM created a culture focused on attracting younger talent and pushed a “staff reduction methodology” that ranked employees. The methodology is flawed, the lawsuit alleges, because IBM’s goal is to make room for younger employees.
“IBM has devoted countless millions of dollars to its effort to rebrand as a hip, millennial-centric tech company,” the lawsuit says, adding that the company “signals to decision makers that Baby Boomers are not welcome at IBM and do not fit IBM’s new culture.”
Langley was pressured to leave the company in 2016 and then permanently laid off in June 2017, the lawsuit says. One month after he was involuntarily terminated from IBM, Langley received a letter from the company congratulating him on his “retirement,” according to the lawsuit.
Reached at his Austin home, Langley declined to comment beyond the statements made in the lawsuit.
Langley’s claims are similar to other cases ProPublica found, in which IBM treated job cuts as voluntary retirements. That method can reduce the number of layoffs in the company to avoid triggering public reporting requirements, according to ProPublica.
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