At HP, baby boomers allege age discrimination

Federal lawsuit points to CEO’s own statements about firm’s hiring goals

Four former Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) employees, all of them over 50 years of age, allege in a lawsuit that the firm pushed older workers out so it could increase the number of younger employees -- millennials in particular.

The federal age-discrimination lawsuit, which marshalled statistical evidence, job ads and internal memorandum to support its claims, will also cite public statements by HPE CEO Meg Whitman in its case.

For instance, in a CNBC interview last November, Whitman was asked by an interviewer: “You did announce significant job cuts about a month or so ago.… Is that going to be it for HP?” (HP announced cuts of up to 30,000 jobs in September last year)

Whitman responded: “That should be it. That will allow us to right-size our Enterprise Services business... to make sure that we’ve got a labor pyramid with lots of young people coming in right out of college and graduate school and early in their careers. That’s an important part of the future of the company....”

The complaint was filed last week by the former employees. At the time of their layoffs, which took place in 2015 and this year, Donna Forsyth, was age 62; Sidney Staton, 54; Arun Vatturi, 52; and Dan Weiland, 63. The lawsuit is seeking class action status.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, is against Hewlett Packard and the successor firm following its split last year, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. It alleges that HP made it a priority to transform itself from an an “old” company into a “younger” operation.

“Striving to reach this goal, HP has shed thousands of its older employees while at the same time aggressively recruiting much younger employees to replace them,” the lawsuit states.

An HPE spokesman, in response, said: “We are aware of the claims, deny them and plan to defend against them.”

The lawsuit alleges that in 2013 HP’s human resources department distributed written guidelines stating that HP’s policy requires 75% of “all external hire requisitions” be graduate or early-career employees. Job ads were run with language that stipulated that candidates must have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree within the last 12 months.

The lawsuit also claims that internal documents characterized Baby Boomers as “rule breakers,” implying they were undesirable. “Conversely, when it came to ‘Millennials,’ HP made it clear that hiring new employees from this generation was highly desirable,” the lawsuit alleges.

The Pew Research Center puts the age rangeof Millennials in 2015 as 18-34; for Generation X, it’s from 35 to 50; and for Baby Boomers, 51 to 69.

HP isn’t alone in fighting an age discrimination lawsuit. Google is now fighting a claim by older workers who allege they were rejected for employment because of their age.

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Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
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