How IBM quietly pushed out 20,000 older workers

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  • Published on:  Friday, April 20, 2018
  • Age discrimination can be very hard to prove.Read ProPublica's full feature story here: In a ProPublica feature that collected the stories of over 1,400 former IBM employees, it was estimated that a staggering 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over have been eliminated by the company. How does one of the country’s largest tech giants quietly push out this many older workers? Don’t we have laws to protect people at the end of their careers? Subscribe to the ProPublica newsletter: to our channel! is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out Check out our full video catalog: Vox on Twitter: on Facebook:


  • Gerard Lord
    Gerard Lord  a years ago +317

    Never be loyal to any company.

  • Criipier
    Criipier  a years ago +1449

    The fact that in the US you can sign deals that waive your legal rights is something that I've never quite understood. How is this legal? You're setting up a system that will always be used to ensure that powerful stakeholders will never be held accountable.

  • SGN gmail
    SGN gmail  a years ago +283

    An IT worker in their 40s is hardly obsolete or over-the-hill. People of that generation are the ones who built the Internet and created most of the IT infrastructure the world uses. The reason tech companies, and companies in general, try to shadily get rid of older workers is because people in their 40s are not as easy to exploit as new graduates who know nothing about the working world. That being said, a company that does this kind of thing usually ends up shooting itself in the foot. When was the last time something truly innovative came out of IBM anyways? Companies are only as good as they treat their staff.

  • Munashiimaru
    Munashiimaru  a years ago +1692

    Kind of weird that they would do that considering they're name is basically synonymous with old.

  • Kel McGowan
    Kel McGowan  a years ago +198

    This is happening at a lot of companies across the world though. They lay off older, more experienced workers, on higher wages and then bring in these young naive over-enthusiastic workers, who do whatever they're told, for peanut wages, because they're so desperate to get their foot on the work ladder. People that have worked 30 years good service for their company, blemish free records & they're getting hauled over hot coals for minor discrepancies & given the option to either leave or be made to leave. There's no loyalty anywhere.

  • Van Hendrix
    Van Hendrix  a years ago +1264

    I wonder if there's anyone watching this with an IBM computer

  • Mike Poulin
    Mike Poulin  1 months ago +45

    I'm 58 and I have almost always had multiple job offers, including many former employers.
    Had a layoff only once for two weeks when I was young due to business turn-down.
    The trick is to stay as current and knowledgeable in your field as possible - Look for trends in your field that may give you clues as to where it is headed. But do not limit yourself to one field either. Be willing to work sometimes unpleasant tasks without complaint - be flexible with work hours, assignments and tasks. Get as much training as you possibly can, especially outside your comfort zone. Your have to be willing to change jobs and employers often. Don't get pigeonholed into repetitive tasks.
    I change companies on average about every 5 years on my own initiative in order to maximize wages, because I get the highest wage increases when I move to a new employer. Then try to save and invest some percent of your extra income.
    Don't waste your money buying ready made meals, make your own coffee and sandwiches at home. Don't saddle yourself with crazy amounts of debt if possible.
    Find your happiness outside work, work is to make money period ...
    Think of your self as a product that the employer needs, and make sure you are the best product he can buy by continuously self-improving.
    Be ready at all times for layoff! Don't let your employer define who you are and have no fear of a layoff.
    I have purchased equipment that would help me start my own business if I had to, but I have not needed to yet so it will be re-sold upon my "retirement."
    Do not be loyal to the company besides giving an honest days work, especially in an environment where it won't be recognized and rewarded.
    You must look out for yourself and your family first.
    (edit) And don't let yourself get too stressed can lead to bad health and death and then you won't be any good to anyone...if your job stress affects your health you need to bail...

  • spelunkerd
    spelunkerd  a years ago +843

    The workforce has dramatically changed over this generation. High tech jobs are set up so that employees work on short term projects and need to apply for a new job every few years. Good luck to an older employee who hasn't stayed on the cutting edge of his field. In America where health care is linked to an employer, people would be wise to cache earnings in anticipation of needing that cushion much sooner than they may like.

  • EAE
    EAE  a years ago +702

    What exactly does IBM do now? Watson was the last time I've heard anything from them

  • Zhu Bajie
    Zhu Bajie  a years ago +96

    I'm surprised that this a surprise. This is happening across all industries and has since the 80s. The ball was all in business court and the vast majority of people have no effective redress regarding employment.

  • Khizar Shah
    Khizar Shah  a years ago +67

    Never do your employer even a small favour. They only care about their margins. Never work anywhere for more than 5 years no matter what

  • Amy Sloane
    Amy Sloane  a years ago +182

    My fear is that my company thinks they can get someone else to do my job for much less money, as I have been with them 18 years. I am not scared because of my age, but it could appear that they are firing the old to replace with the young... But I see it as firing the loyal and well paid with cheaper labor.

  • Greg M
    Greg M  a years ago +21

    It's not just IBM, every tech industry in the U.S. is doing exactly what IBM has been doing.
    The median age of U.S. workers is 42.4 years old, yet for Google and most tech companies it is 29 years old.
    I wonder if anyone has done any studies showing a correlation between high rates of age discrimination and suicide. Currently the highest rate of both are between the ages if 40 and 55.

  • Thomas Nimmo
    Thomas Nimmo  a years ago +69

    Oof, this hits close to home, as my father was one of those thousands when I was still in high school.

  • New Message
    New Message  a years ago +22

    Older workers have pensions and benefits, and actual experience in the field they work in.... Can't have that.

  • Roshan Koshy
    Roshan Koshy  a years ago +35

    Aging-It happens to everyone
    Nailed it👏

  • EdwardERS
    EdwardERS  a years ago +65

    "IBM’s goal, it seems, is to flush out its older workforce and fill the void with fresher faces to reflect its younger “fiercest competitors.” According to the findings, IBM supposedly laid off older workers due to “out of date” skillsets, only to re-hire them as contractors to perform the same duties at a lower pay and no benefits."
    Cutting hours and job titles to lower pay and benefits. The Wallmartification going beyond retail here.

  • Kyle Jones
    Kyle Jones  1 months ago +16

    This is a problem with capitalism. It cannot be fixed by saying age discrimination is not good. Profit is the number one motive of any company and will always remain so. If they can fire 20k workers and the fines are less than the savings, they will do it.
    Capitalism is a inheranrly broken system, designed to create instability and siphon wealth out of the working class.

  • BuddyL
    BuddyL  a years ago +108

    Employee liquidation: the (unfortunately) quintessential American🇺🇸 business practice.

  • Adam Patterson
    Adam Patterson  a years ago +19

    The answer is money. Corporations don't care about values they care about value.