Layoffs in 2015 and 2016 targeted older workers over younger ones, complaints allege

STAFF FILE PHOTO - Intel, Hillsboros largest employer, has been under investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal.Intel, one of the largest employers in the state with campuses across Hillsboro, is being investigated by federal regulators after former employees complained of age discrimination in a series of recent layoffs at the tech giant.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking into complaints that older employees at Intel were discriminated against by administrators when they were laid off in 2015 and 2016.

The EEOC investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. According to The Oregonian, the company has been under investigation since 2016.

Three years ago the company announced mass layoffs at the company, letting go of more than 1,000 employees, including several based at Intel's four Hillsboro-area campuses. A year later, in 2016, the company laid off another 784 Oregon workers. The layoffs were part of a massive restructuring at the company expected to save $1.4 billion that year as it pivoted away from personal computers toward the Internet of Things, powering everything from cars to smart appliances.

While the company did not release exact figures about layoffs in Oregon, documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal claim the median age of laid off employees was 49, about seven years older than the median age of employees who remained.

The complaints are not new. The Oregonian newspaper reported in 2016 that Intel's Oregon layoffs skewed older. According to the newspaper at the time, in 2015 and 2016 the majority of Intel's Oregon layoffs were between the ages of 50 and 70.

In fact, employees over the age of 40 were twice as likely to lose their jobs in the layoff, based on Intel data provided to The Oregonian at the time.

Intel has denied the allegations, saying in a written statement that "personnel decisions were based solely upon skill sets and business needs to support that evolution. Factors such as age, race, national origin, gender, immigration status, or other personal demographics were not part of the process when we made those decisions."

Age discrimination complaints can be difficult to prove and investigations are a standard response from regulators after receiving complaints, but the apparent length of the EEOC investigation was good news for a group of former Intel employees known as The Intel Eliminati, which has protested the company's layoff policies for years.

Formed after the 2015 layoffs to help laid off employees get back on their feet, the organization said complaints made to the EEOC did not come as a surprise.

"The fact that the EEOC would continue an investigation almost three years after a reported violation indicates that the reported allegations are substantial, in spite of Intel Corp. denial of the charges," the group wrote on its website over the weekend.

The EEOC complaint will determine whether there is enough evidence to mount a case in court, possibly as a class-action suit, or settle the matter out of court.

If the EEOC opts not to file its own case, employees may file civil cases against the company.

Complaints of age discrimination in the tech industry have existed for years. Companies including Google and IBM have been investigated by the EEOC after former employees made similar allegations and the industry has seen a rise in complaints and lawsuits over ageism in the past few years, with more than 90 age-discrimination lawsuits filed in Silicon Valley between 2012 and 2016, according to the USA Today.

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