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Age discrimination class-action against HP and HPE gets green light to proceed

Old people were let go while the CEO was talking about hiring a bunch of young people, says complaint

Former HP workers who allege they were dismissed in order to clear a path for younger employees have been granted certification [PDF] for their proposed collective action by a California district court.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs accused HPE and spin-off HP of violating federal and California age discrimination laws during a period of corporate restructuring by pushing out older workers while aggressively hiring younger ones.

According to the filing, they claimed this demographic shake-up started in 2012, and continued in the years following the late 2015 separation of HP. More importantly, they claim it wasn't an accident, but rather driven by a conscious decision by then-CEO Meg Whitman, who was cited as expressing a desire to hire "a whole host of young people" and make the company "younger" during a securities analysts meeting in 2013.

The complainants also pointed to what they see as explicit declarations from HP that it was "amping up" early-career and college hiring, as well as statements from Whitman describing an informal rule that forced managers to "really think" about hiring early-career employees. Older employees, meanwhile, were maligned in internal documents as "traditionalist" and "rule breakers."

Whitman also expressed a desire to change the age makeup of HP from a "diamond" (with a heavy concentration of middle-aged workers) to a "quite flat diamond" with "lots of young people coming in right out of college."

In his ruling this week, district judge Edward Davila granted their request for a collective action, saying they "met their burden [of proof]" in showing those fired from HP and HPE after having turned 40 had enough in common for the case to proceed.

Davila set a 105-day notice during which those with similar grievances can join the suit.

Both HP and HPE have strenuously denied behaving in a discriminatory manner, with HP previously pointing to the company's tenuous financial footing at the start of the decade, compounded by declines in its printing and device business units, as well as the disastrous acquisition of UK software firm Autonomy.

This isn't the first age discrimination complaint surrounding HP's mid-2010s cost-cutting measures, and it follows a similar win against IBM last month.

Big Blue faces similar allegations it purged as many as 13,000 older employees in order to bring in a younger workforce. The complainants also accused IBM of using subterfuge and underhand tactics to remove staffers over the age of 40, and to prevent them finding permanent new roles within the company.

These claims, which date back to 2018, have now entered the discovery process, with the schedule for fact-finding expected to be drawn up this month. ®

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