IBM is being sued for age discrimination — here's what to do if you think your company treated you unfairly because of your age

Tim Boyle/Getty ImagesThree former IBM employees are suing the technology company.
  • Three former IBM employees are suing the company for age discrimination.
  • The tech company has fired more than an estimated 20,000 employees aged 40 or older in the last six years, according to a ProPublica report.
  • The former employees said IBM fired them because of their age. Heather Bussing, a California-based workplace attorney, told Business Insider that’s the most common form of discrimination.

Three former IBM employees are suing the technology company for age discrimination.

“Over the last several years, IBM has been in the process of systematically laying off older employees in order to build a younger workforce,” the employees claim in the suit, which was filed September 18 and reported by Bloomberg.

Age discrimination, which some say is particularly rampant in the tech industry, most frequently takes the form of forcing early retirement, firing, or laying off older employees, said Heather Bussing, a California-based workplace attorney.

“You’ll get people who are maybe in their 50s or 60s, and the company starts to kind of systemically move them out and replace them with lower level, less-experienced, and typically younger employees,” Dan Ryan, principal of Ryan Search and Consulting and former VP of human resources, told Business Insider.

It’s actually easier to prove age discrimination than any other form of discrimination, Bussing said. One simply needs to look at a list of who was fired and their ages.

In IBM’s case, 20,000-plus American employees aged 40 or older have been fired in the past six years, according to a ProPublica report. That accounts for 60% of all its firings in that time period.

“You can usually tell whether age is a factor, because when it is, you see a disproportionate number of older people being laid off or let go,” Bussing said.

If you believe you were fired or laid off because of your age, here’s what to do:

1. Consult a third party

Lay out everything that happened to a trusted friend, family member, or colleague, Ryan advised.

“When age discrimination comes up, there are typically a lot of emotions involved,” Ryan said. “Giving yourself an opportunity to diffuse that and just look at the facts will really help you decide if you want to pursue it from a legal standpoint.”

You should also look at your performance reviews. If they were all positive, but you are over the age of 50 and were fired regardless, Ryan said that’s a red flag.

2. Contact a lawyer

If it turns out there’s a valid reason to pursue the case, contact an attorney with a history of pursuing age discrimination cases.

Bussing said you might also file a complaint with your state equal opportunity agency, but it might take a very long time before they come up with a finding.

If your company is small, you might be the only one suing for discrimination. But you might also be advised to help gather a group of other older people who were possibly fired unfairly.

“When you have mass layoffs, you usually see a group of people banding together to sue,” Bussing said. “The more people who go together, the higher stakes are for the employer. The cost of losing increases with every person who is in the suit.”

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