IBM executives planned to rid the company of older, ‘dinobaby’ employees and replace them with millennials, lawsuit alleges

The new allegations are part of an age-discrimination lawsuit against the company.
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· 4 min read

Millennials who may have wasted their retirement savings on avocado toast were allegedly being courted by IBM at the expense of the company’s older employees, recently unsealed court documents appear to show.

The court documents, which quote from internal IBM documents, are being presented as evidence in an age-discrimination lawsuit alleging that IBM leadership sought to remove older workers from its staff in order to make room for younger workers, in an effort to “better compete” with newer tech companies. The documents include what appears to be a disparaging email allegedly written by IBM executives about older employees and that mentions a plan to make the company’s “dinobabies” an “extinct species,” according to The New York Times.

The new filing asserts that “in another email, [name redacted] describes IBM’s ‘dated maternal workforce—this is what must change. They really don’t understand social or engagement. Not digital natives. A real threat for us.’” Both executives had their names redacted in the documents, having left the company in 2020.

What’s the deal? A 2018 ProPublica investigation found that between 2013 and the start of 2018, IBM laid off “tens of thousands” of older workers allegedly as part of a “strategy” to catch up to newer tech companies. In 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision concluded an investigation that allegedly “uncovered top-down messaging from [IBM’s] highest ranks directing managers to engage in an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers.” There are hundreds of former IBM workers in arbitration proceedings over claims they were “illegally fired” as part of the “scheme to replace older employees with younger ones,” Bloomberg reported last year.

IBM Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux wrote a message to staff earlier this month over the “false claims,” saying that “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.” She noted that between 2010 and 2020, “37% of all US hires at IBM were over the age of 40.”

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When contacted for comment, IBM spokesperson Chris Mumma directed HR Brew to LaMoreaux’s email to staff. Another spokesperson, Adam Pratt, defended the company’s record of hiring older employees to The NYTimes, saying that the company hired more than 10,000 employees over the age of 50 between 2010 and 2020. The company has over 345,000 employees worldwide.

How common is age discrimination?

The EEOC defines age discrimination as “treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age,” and as the agency explains, “the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.”

Although the number of age-discrimination claims filed with the EEOC reportedly declined by 39% between 2010 and 2020, 78% of respondents to a 2021 AARP survey said “they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, the highest level since AARP began tracking this question in 2003.” (The survey queried 1,322 Americans “ages 40–65 who were in the workforce or recently exited the workforce as a result of COVID-19.”)

Bottom line. In any case, the fountain of youth may not exist. The overall share of workers over 50 is ballooning: Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data, AARP noted in a 2020 report that “the number of workers age 50+ has increased by 80% over the past 20 years.” Moreover, some of those coveted millennials are now eligible to sue over age-discimrination claims, as the oldest members of the generation are now entering their 40s.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.