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IBM execs referred to older employees as ‘dinobabies’ and a ‘dated maternal workforce,’ according to explosive court docs

February 14, 2022, 8:09 PM UTC

The Jurassic period ended millions of years ago, but elderly employees at IBM were compared to dinosaurs by their managers, according to newly-released court documents.

The documents, which were unsealed last week, are part of a lawsuit against the company by former workers accusing it of age discrimination. The company fired up to 100,000 workers over 40 years old  from approximately 2013 to 2018, according to ProPublica

One executive, whose name is redacted, explicitly discussed a plan to “accelerate change by inviting the ‘dinobabies’ (new species) to leave” and make them an “extinct species,” according to the court documents. IBM leaders also discussed carrying out a “relocation” program, in which older workers would be asked to relocate or exit the company, according to the documents. 

Another executive, whose name is redacted from the lawsuit, said in an email that the company had a “dated maternal workforce—this is what must change,” according to court documents. That executive went on to say that the older women were seen as digitally illiterate and posed a threat to the company.

“They really don’t understand social or engagement. Not digital natives. A real threat for us,” the executive wrote.   

IBM has denied any claims of systemic age discrimination. 

“Some language in emails between former IBM executives that has been reported is not consistent with the respect IBM has for its employees and as the facts clearly show, it does not reflect company practices or policies,” Chris Mumma, a spokesperson for IBM, told Fortune. 

Nickle LaMoreaux, chief human resources officer for IBM, said in a statement on Sunday that the company did not engage in systematic age discrimination, and that it laid off employees because of changing business conditions, not because of their age. In 2020, the median age of IBM’s U.S. workforce was 48, the same as it was in 2010, according to the company. 

Accusations of age discrimination are widespread in the tech community, where some 35 year olds are considered old. And more than six in 10 workers age 45 and older say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision

Qualified mature female workers are also often ignored in favor of younger candidates, Business Insider reported. And older employees are often targeted for downsizing as companies attempt to cut overall costs, because greater experience means a more expensive salary as compared to entry level workers.

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