Palo Alto-based HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company are in hot water after four former employees filed a workplace discrimination complaint against the tech company alleging age discrimination.
The discrimination lawsuit filed on August 18 in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California claims that HP has terminated thousands of older employees in recent years as it aggressively recruits younger workers to replace them.
HP Targeted Older Employees in Workplace Reduction Plan
The tech giant started implementing its plan to transform the company into a "younger" workplace in 2012 with its "Workplace Reduction Plan." According to the suit filed by former employees Donna J. Forsyth, Sidney L. Staton III, ArunVatturi and Dan Weiland, tens of thousands of older workers lost their jobs due to the plan. HP even stated that the goal of the reduction plan was to have a "younger" company. These four plaintiffs all faced layoffs in which their job duties shifted to younger employees.
The lawsuit also states that HP was in violation of both California and federal laws and seeks class action status on behalf of other former workers who were at least 40 years old during the time of their layoffs.
CEO of HP Enterprise Quoted in Lawsuit
Meg Whitman, former chief executive of HP Inc. (who is now CEO of HP Enterprise), is quoted in the age discrimination lawsuit due to her past comments about the company's restructure. The lawsuit claims that Whitman allegedly expressed preference for a workforce that looks like a "pyramid" with younger workers forming the base, replacing a diamond shape that employed primarily middle-aged employees.
The suit quotes Whitman in a 2013 meeting as saying, "We are working very hard to recalibrate and reshape our labor pyramid so that it looks like the more classical pyramid that you should have in any company."
Lawsuit Claims HP Senior Management Team & HR Violated Employment Laws
In order for Whitman to reach her goal,HP's team of senior managers provided managers all over the country with exact numbers of workers who were to be laid off, plus numbers of requisitions for new hires that formed a pattern of hiring younger workers to replace older, more experienced workers.
According to the suit, the human resources department at HP also allegedly dispersed guidelines that required 75 percent of external hire requests to be "early career" or "graduate" applicants.
Additionally, an internal document that was circulating within HP alleged stereotyping of employees. According to the internal memo, a "traditionalist" who moves "slow and steady" is someone born between 1930 and 1946, and "rule breakers" are baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The document deemed rule breakers undesirable candidates for positions. However, millennials were considered to be incredibly desirable candidates. The suit claims that HP encouraged hiring managers to "integrate millennials into the workforce."
HP Spokesmen Claim Company is Committed to Equal Employment
According to the Wall Street Journal, an HP Enterprise spokesperson said that the tech company is committed to equal employment opportunities. "The decision to implement a workforce reduction is always difficult, but we are confident that our decisions were based on legitimate factors unrelated to age."
As for HP Inc., a spokesperson also claimed that they deny the plaintiffs' claims and plan to defend against them. The statement also said HP Inc. is committed to equal rights in the workplace. "We take care to make tough decisions based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons," said the spokesman.
If this is true, then why, according to the suit, did these HP companies also want their experienced workers to retire early? The age discrimination complaint alleges that HP workers who were employed by the tech company for at least 10 years, and older than age 55, were encouraged to voluntarily phase out their employment.
HP May Have Violated a Slew of California Employment Laws
The lawsuit claims that HP violated employment laws under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Business and Professions Code and state public policy.
While the complaint fails to specify the amount of damages, it does seek an injunction against HP's alleged discriminatory behaviors and to restore members of the class action age discrimination lawsuit to positions that are comparable to those they held before being let go. Alternatively, the suit members seek compensation of pay and benefits for the period remaining until each individual's age of retirement.
HP Age Discrimination Lawsuit: For Further Reading
- Age Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against HP via Palo Alto Online
- HP, HP Enterprise Accused of Age Discrimination in Suit via The Wall Street Journal
- HP hit with age discrimination lawsuit by four ex-employees via USA Today
You should never have to worry about losing your job because of your age. If you feel you are facing age discrimination in California, your employer may be violating California employment laws. Contact the expert Los Angeles employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for your free consultation today.