A former Intel engineer, laid off in 2015, has sued the chipmaker claiming that he was dismissed because of his age.
In a complaint filed on Thursday in a US district court in Portland, Oregon, Ron Tsur alleges that years of abusive management led to discriminatory performance reviews that, alongside age-biased corporate layoff criteria, led to his ouster.
The court filing [PDF] says that Tsur was hired by Intel in January 2011 at the age of 58 as Embedded Systems Integration Technical Lead in Intel’s Wireless Platform Research and Development (WPRD) department. Before then he had spent roughly three decades working for Intel as an independent contractor.
Several months later, it's claimed, he was assigned to work with a manager who "regularly made ageist and xenophobic comments" to Tsur – who immigrated to the US from Israel in 1981.
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Alleged statements by this manager include words to the effect of: "If you think age is an advantage in this job, you are mistaken"; "At your age, you should be retired"; "You must realize that at your age your mind cannot be as sharp as when you were 20 or 30 years old"; "Jews created a lot of problems in this world, look at Socialism"; and so on.
The complaint contends the manager then removed Tsur as the technical lead of a new project and replaced him with younger, less qualified workers. "Soon after, younger co-workers within [the manager's] department who became aware of [the manager's] critique of Mr Tsur began calling Mr. Tsur derogatory names, such as 'old man,' and 'old fart,' as well as demeaning Mr Tsur’s Israeli origin in Mr. Tsur’s presence," the court filing says.
Though Tsur earned a "Satisfactory" performance review for 2011, it's claimed that the manager "added his own unwarranted criticisms to the performance review, consistent with the severe and pervasive hostile work environment [the manager] cultivated by continually targeting Mr Tsur with misplaced condescension, disparaging remarks, unfair criticism and other interference with Mr Tsur’s work."
The court filing describes Tsur reporting the manager's behavior to the VP of the WPRD and asking that he be reassigned and that his complaint remain confidential. But the ensuing investigation alerted the manager to the complaint and the manager's hostility escalated. In 2012, Intel's Human Resources Legal Department contacted Tsur as part of the investigation of his complaint and dismissed his allegations. In December that year, HR gave Tsur two choices: resign or be subject to a "Corrective Action Plan."
Out of the frying pan
He chose the latter and in January 2013 accepted an internal job offer to serve as a Software Architect in Intel’s Electrical Validation Department (EVD), though it is claimed his antagonistic manager sought to prevent the transfer even as the group of workers he was supervising was in the process of being disbanded.
The manager allegedly issued an "Improvement Required" performance review in April 2013 based on his personal animus against Tsur. The manager, it's claimed, "then encrypted the file containing Mr Tsur’s 2013 performance review, such that neither Mr Tsur nor his managers could view Mr. Jones’ rationale for the 'Improvement Required' rating."
The Register tried to contact Tsur's attorney to ask about this but we've not heard back.
The complaint does not elaborate on any further interactions between Tsur and his alleged managerial nemesis, or explain whether anyone at Intel objected to this alleged file encryption. But it goes on to describe a better relationship with a different manager who in 2014 issued a "Successful" rating for Tsur's 2013 performance review. Yet because Tsur was new to the EVD, he was allocated Fewer time-vesting Restricted Stock Unit (RSU) stock options than others.
By 2014 Intel management, it's claimed, had issued a reduction in force directive and Tsur got bounced to the company's Tools and Methodologies group under a new manager. In this new group, Tsur again saw a "Successful" performance rating and instead of an RSU stock option grant, got 11.4 per cent annual performance bonus.
In 2015, the lack of stock options became a problem because Intel allegedly used the level of RSU stock grants as a factor to be weighed for continued employment. On June 15, 2015, Tsur was informed that he'd lost his job as part of Intel’s decision to lay off 1,155 of its US employees.
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The complaint argues that Intel's consideration of stock option grants in deciding who to let go discriminates against older workers. It notes that these grants are not based on performance but on anticipated future performance, which puts older employees, who might be expected to retire, at a disadvantage.
"Statistical evidence demonstrates a significant age-based disparity, favoring younger employees of Intel over older employees of Intel as a result of Intel’s standards for selecting Mr. Tsur along with the rest of the 1,155 employees involuntarily terminated in July 2015," the complaint says.
"These disparities are reflected in the older composition of the cohort selected for involuntary termination from the Electrical Validation Department where Mr. Tsur worked, and among Intel’s employees nationwide, as compared to the composition of the members of each group who were allowed to keep their jobs."
Intel laid off another 12,000 US workers in April and May 2016, and it's claimed this also included "a significantly disproportionate number of older workers."
In February, The Oregonian obtained a document indicating that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded Intel discriminated against eight older workers during layoffs in 2015.
"Intel’s 2015 layoff was consistent with a long standing culture of ageism permeating its ranks, which included pressuring older workers to retire out of a preference for younger workers," the complaint says.
Intel declined to comment on the case. ®