Four former employees of Silicon Valley tech icon Hewlett-Packard have filed an age discrimination lawsuit alleging they were ousted amid a purge of older workers.
Hewlett-Packard began layoffs in 2012, before the company broke into HP Inc. and HP Enterprise last year, and have escalated the layoffs since, eventually hitting tens of thousands of workers.
However the complaint claims the goal of the changes was more to make the company younger.
“In order to get younger, HP intentionally discriminated against its older employees by targeting them for termination … and then systematically replacing them with younger employees. HP has hired a disproportionately large number of new employees under the age of 40 to replace employees aged 40 and older who were terminated,” the complaint said.
Arun Vatturi, 52, Sidney Staton, 54, have joined in the lawsuit with a former employee from Washington, 62, and from Texas, 63. The group is seeking class-action status for the court action and claims HP broke state and federal laws against age discrimination.
HP in 2012 announced it would cut 27,000 jobs. The company continued to announce layoffs, which to date total more than 80,000.
HP said: “Hewlett Packard Enterprise has a long-standing commitment to the principles of equal employment opportunity and age inclusion is no exception. 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.”
The lawsuit alleges that HP’s human resources department in 2013 issued written guidelines mandating that 75 percent of all external hires should be fresh from school or “early career” applicants.
Central to the lawsuit’s claims are statements attributed to Meg Whitman, who is now HP chairwoman and HP Enterprise CEO. She told a company meeting:
“We need to return to a labour pyramid … where you have a lot of early career people who bring a lot of knowledge who you’re training to move up through your organization, and then people fall out either from a performance perspective or whatever. And we put in place an informal rule to some extent which is, ‘Listen, when you are replacing someone, really think about the new style of IT skills.”