How companies treat elderly workers is a ProPublica beat
Richard Eisenberg of Forbes.com interviewed ProPublic contributing reporter Peter Gosselin about his beat covering how companies are treating elderly workers.
Here is an excerpt:
How did the IBM story come about?
I was talking to the young woman who became my co-author on the project, an engagement reporter at ProPublica named Ariana Tobin. When I left journalism, there was no such thing as engagement reporting, so I didn’t have the faintest idea what she was talking about. She said I should write about my experience [getting laid off and having difficulty getting hired due to age] and put it out there. So I did a social media callout and asked: Got a story about work and being over 50? Tell us about it. We got a huge response and loads of the responses came from ex-IBM employees. They led us to the story. Then we did another social media callout directed at IBMers and got thousands of responses. I’d never done an investigative project with 1,000 or more sources before. When you get that kind of response, you can begin to see patterns. The one that stood out strongly was that IBM retired older, longer-serving employees.
Some of the documents looked across thousands of people at IBM and showed there was a point system that was age-biased. The most vulnerable for layoff were older and we had the company’s assessment of the workers’ performance and likely projections of where they’d go if they stayed at the company. The very people they were picking [for layoffs and retirement] were ones who had very high performance ratings. And IBM said most of these people would likely be promoted or would stay in the high levels they were at.
Why do you think you heard from so many ex-IBMers?
We did hear from other companies; that’s fodder for what’s to come. But one of the reasons I think the response was so great from IBMers is that IBM has a long history as a progressive company and, to this day, touts that on every other issue of diversity and inclusiveness except age. It’s the mismatch between the company’s stated values and what it does to its older, long-serving, loyal workers that sends IBMers around the bend.
Read more here.