back to article IBM HR chief insists 'no systemic age discrimination'

IBM's Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux on Sunday rejected what she described as "false claims of age discrimination at the company." "Discrimination of any kind is entirely against our culture and who we are at IBM, and there was (and is) no systemic age discrimination at our company," said LaMoreaux in a public …

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  1. Woodnag

    no systemic age discrimination

    I suspect that she won't be pinned down to what she means by 'systemic'.

    1. Jonathon Green

      Re: no systemic age discrimination

      …or “age”, or “discrimination”. I doubt there’s much commitment to the spaces between the words either.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We wish to emphasise that age is simply not a factor considered by IBM in employment matters.

    Only impartial factors are used at IBM, such as the inability to grow pubic hair yet.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Customer support

    As a long time customer of IBM, support has clearly deteriorated the last several years. Basically, we end up closing PMRs in exasperation because IBM is simply incapable of understanding the use case or the problem, let alone solving it. Currently we're in another muddle where we have ended up having to make suggestions to IBM on how to solve the problem because they again, can't understand our use case or what we are trying to do. I have to attribute this to the loss of knowledge from laying off their experienced workers.

    1. msobkow Silver badge

      Re: Customer support

      It is a common problem throughout the industry, not just at IBM. North America has a culture where most people expect and plan on several job changes in their career in order to get the money and promotions they seek. Contrast that with 30 years ago, when people looked for a company they could stick with that had good salary and benefits without needing to jump around to get it.

      Those "dinosaurs" are the ones who understand customers' business needs, and there is no university or tech school on the planet that teaches that properly. The only way you learn is by doing, and for several years at that.

      Sure the new kids can program rings around me when we're talking Javascript and browser APIs. But who do you think makes the servers dance that they talk to? Javascript and the browser are only presentation; that isn't where the biggest security and integrity challenges lie in a system. Companies need both skillsets to deliver quality products.

      But "quality" is no longer "job 1" - anywhere. Quality is "good enough to ship according to our defect metrics", knowing full well it isn't ready for prime time if the techies had their say.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The bump in the virtuous road

    If you ever catch a daring young thing banging on about how they have created a company literally full of diversity, ask 'em how many staff have grey hairs.

    For further hilarity pull up the obligatory "our team" photo and ask them to point out the people with grey hair.

    Offer £10 to charity for each one pointed out.

    Then make them cry by calling them an age nazi.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: The bump in the virtuous road

      You are a BOFH and I claim my £5.

  5. AVR

    Probably not about that executive order

    An order which "prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin." doesn't obviously have a problem with age discrimination. Rather than refusing to admit their discrimination on that basis I suspect it's got more to do with aiding other lawsuits.

    1. naive

      Re: Probably not about that executive order

      The litigation involves the ADEA act, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_Discrimination_in_Employment_Act_of_1967.

      This act states clearly what constitutes age discrimination.

      The hire and fire culture in the USA amplifies this kind of things, if the reporting about this is correct, IBM seems to be in hot water.

      For all the USA haters, the USA had this act in 1967, the EU merely has a directive against age discrimination. In the Netherlands age discrimination in job ads is commonplace, here people get fired from McDonalds and super market jobs when they are 21 because then they are entitled to minimum wages. So still a long way to go, specially since most countries in EU have an inaccessible and medieval legal system based on the law books Napoleon introduced in the early 1800's.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

        Re: Probably not about that executive order

        The differences in employment practices and laws between the US and the UK are many. I know this because I work in the US for a UK Corporation.

        In the US you can layoff anyone as part of a force reduction but if those laid off are predominantly the "older" staff you put yourself at risk of violating ADEA. Defending yourself in court against these suits can be an exercise in futility. Plaintiff's lawyers will try to get a jury trial and no "evil corporation" ever gets any sympathy from a jury.

        You can lay someone off if their skill set is no longer needed. I remember we laid off several people in their 50's because their skill set was in the AS400 we no longer used. They were told ahead of time, they knew we were transitioning away from that technology but they made no effort to update their skills. Those lay off were justified,

        1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Probably not about that executive order

          I lived and worked in the USA for over 20 years and the law at federal level is rather thin (there isn't much). Some states have more protections (none of the 'right to work' states though).

          I must assume that this person was laid off in one of the 'right to work' states.

          I was let go from a company in New Jersey a long time ago; at the time (I have no idea if it is the case now) letting someone go at the behest of the company was automatically assumed (by state law) to be age discrimination if the person was 45 or older. The onus was on the company to prove otherwise.

          As I was indeed older than that at the time, I was offered a (quite substantial) settlement* in return for signing a piece of legal paper that released the company from that assumption.

          * Several months pay and fully paid up health insurance for 6 months.

  6. trevorde Silver badge

    Nothing to see here

    "IBM's Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux (age 17) ..."

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Nothing to see here

      Say what you like about her, she has an impressive CV... (and no the downvote wasn't from me)

      https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickle-lamoreaux/

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "However, IBM has wielded its confidentiality provision in its arbitration agreement aggressively to block these employees at every turn from using this highly relevant and damning evidence in each other’s cases."

    Isn't it illegal in the US to have contractual agreements override statute law?

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Genuine question...

    I don't live or work in the US but I was just wondering how hard it would have been for him to just go and get another job? Obviously no-one has all of the details, but as a 15yr IBM'er, and in what sounds like a fairly middling exec role - he can't have been that hard up financially (I guess)?

    I'm not judging or condoning anything or anyone, but living here in Europe, I just don't fathom how being laid off in itself would drive someone to suicide unless the whole culture of US working practice is toxic - or that there are other contributory factors at play.

    1. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

      Re: Genuine question...

      Not to mention leaving his wife to fend for herself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Genuine answer Re: Genuine question...

      One, it would not have been easy to get another job. Partly because age discrimination is widespread in the US tech industry - but for many leading companies, it is less obvious because they just hire young. They don't have IBM's "problem" of an existing aging workforce that they need to whittle down first. And partly because 15 years as a middling exec at IBM is not a very attractive skillset to many other employers. (My own situation parallels his in many ways except for the exec part, and I could barely get interviews.)

      Two, the US does not have the social safety net that Europe (and elsewhere) has. Unemployment benefits are limited, and healthcare is terrifying expensive without an employer subsidizing it*. If he has kids to put through college, that is also a huge cost. So it's easy to imagine somebody in his position facing a financial crisis. Many middle-class people in the US live barely within their means** are just a few paychecks away from bankruptcy (or dipping into retirement savings with expensive penalties and the risk of running out of money later in life). I volunteer from time to time at a food bank, and it is not unusual to see Volvos and BMWs and large SUVs lining up for a sack of free groceries.

      So he could easily have been facing bankruptcy and the feeling of having failed his family.

      And three, never underestimate the power of depression, which can hit for a lot of reasons other than financial pressure - or for no reason at all other than malfunctioning serotonin receptors.

      *It's not great even with the subsidy...

      **Which arguably is partly, but not entirely their fault. Too long to discuss here.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

        Re: Genuine answer Genuine question...

        Yes, there is rampant age discrimination in the Tech industry in the US. But there is the other side of that coin. I have know many older IT people who just absolutely refuse to update their skills. Such as the 40 something desktop support tech who's skills are just basic Windows. The 50 something Windows server administrator who's never learned any Virtualization skills, networking skills, cloud infrastructure skills. The aging ERP support person who refuses to see their usefulness is fading because the company is moving to a new system and they refuse to even learn the new system.

        I am in my mid 60's and I've kept my skills up. I am a valued member of my team. I have been with my company for 20+ years. Would I want to have to go look for a job now? Not at all, even with my relevant skills the chances of getting hired are just about 0.

    3. Peter D Bronze badge

      Re: Genuine question...

      In the tech business getting work when you are over 55 is incredibly difficult no matter how up to date you are. The 13 year olds interviewing you are absolutely terrified of you for a start.

  9. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

    Utter Management Stupidity

    This is a prime example of the utter stupidity of senior executives in American Corporations and how they are so focused on the immediate cost reductions and not even aware of the long term costs of their actions.

    The subject of the article was 57. 10 years from federal retirement age (67 in the US). If you want to make room for younger employees offer the man an early retirement payout. Even if they offered him 75% of his salary * 10 it would be cheaper than any judgement that comes out of this lawsuit.

    It is nearly impossible for a corporate to win these law suits. Especially if they go to a jury trial. My employer has tried and failed every time.

    Sexual Harassment trial, plaintiff has no evidence except her word and all her coworkers testify they never saw or herd anything. Jury rules against us.

    An old lady crosses the center line on the highway and slams into one of our trucks head on, she dies, her family sues us, We lost!

    12 Hispanic employees walk off the job because the project manager issued a rule that only English is to be used on the walkie-talkies for safety reasons. They sue us for discrimination. We lose!

    This is why corporation settle these kinds of suits. It's not an admission of guilt in most cases (though IBM is guilty as sin!) it's because you can't win! A fact that IBM executives seem utterly clueless about.

    1. Robert Helpmann??
      Childcatcher

      Re: Utter Management Stupidity

      This is a prime example of the utter stupidity of senior executives in American Corporations and how they are so focused on the immediate cost reductions and not even aware of the long term costs of their actions.

      I think you are confusing lack of awareness for lack of concern.

  10. TaabuTheCat

    Yeah, right.

    "I doubt she has seen the mountain of evidence that lawyers around the country have been accumulating."

    Seen it? She probably helped write it!

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