Four former employees have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Hewlett-Packard companies for age discrimination, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
The complaint, filed on Aug. 18 by former employees Donna J. Forsyth, Sidney L. Staton III, Arun Vatturi and Dan Weiland, names Palo Alto-based HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company as defendants. The lawsuit claims the tech company has shed thousands of older employees while aggressively recruiting much younger employees to replace them while it publicly sought to transform the company from an "old" company into a "younger" operation.
In 2012, HP instituted a Workplace Reduction Plan that allegedly targeted older workers, affecting tens of thousands of employees across the country, according to the lawsuit. HP's publicly stated goal under the plan was to make the company "younger."
Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company and chair of HP, Inc.'s board of directors, allegedly stated a goal to change HP's "labor diamond" into a "labor pyramid" or a "quite flat triangle" with large numbers of young people at its base, according to statements made at an October 2013 security analyst meeting. She has repeatedly made similar statements, according to the lawsuit.
To reach her goal, HP's senior management team allegedly provided managers across the country with specific numbers of employees to be laid off and specific numbers of requisitions for new hires with a distinct pattern: shedding the company of older, experienced workers and simultaneously hiring much younger workers to replace them.
HP's human resources department also allegedly distributed written guidelines requiring 75 percent of all external hire requests to be "graduate" or "early career" employees. Graduate employees are those who are about to graduate or who graduated from college within the previous 12 months. Early-career hires were persons who completed their degrees and had up to five years of experience related to the job, according to the complaint.
An internal document also showed an alleged campaign of stereotyping. Anyone born between 1930 and 1946 could be considered a "traditionalist" who moves "slow and steady" and seeks "part time work." Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 were considered "rule breakers," and were thus undesirable, according to the document.
But millennials were considered considered highly desirable, with HP encouraging strategies for "integrat(ing) millennials into the workforce" and "educat(ing) managers and others on millennial characteristics," according to the lawsuit.
The companies allegedly adopted early-retirement programs under which employees older than age 55 who worked for HP for more than 10 years were encouraged to voluntarily phase out their employment.
Vatturi, 52, was hired in 2001 and worked on HP, Inc.'s internal systems to improve procedures in Palo Alto. In one instance, he saved the company more than $70 million through his ideas. He was one of the 0.5 percent of employees who received HP's top performance-review rating of "significantly exceeds expectations" in the company's employee ranking system, according to the complaint.
But shortly before his termination, HP moved him to a low-level data-collection position working with two young independent contractors located in India. He was terminated on Jan. 22, then he was replaced with graduate or early-career hires who were significantly under the age of 40, according to the complaint.
Another California employee, Staton, was working as a sales enablement specialist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company in Sacramento. Like Vatturi, his job performance met or exceeded expectations. But he was laid off in April 2015 at age 54 after being shifted to a team of new hires in their 20s. Several months later HP replaced him with much younger hires, according to the complaint.
The other two plaintiffs, Weiland, of Texas, and Forsyth, of Washington, were terminated at ages 63 and 62 respectively, after decades of employment at the companies. They were replaced by much younger hires under the workplace-reduction plan despite good performance reviews, according to the lawsuit.
Weiland was offered early retirement, but he declined. He was allegedly pressured by his supervisor, and when he did not take the offer, he was terminated through the workplace-reduction plan, the suite alleges.
The complaint alleges age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Business and Professions Code and under state public policy. The suit does not specify the amount of damages, but it seeks an injunction against HP's alleged discriminatory practices and to restore all members of the class-action suit to comparable positions from which they were terminated. Alternatively, it asks for compensation of pay and benefits for the period remaining until each person's retirement age.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise said in a statement that the company "has a longstanding 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," according to HP.