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Intel faces age discrimination allegations following layoffs

Workers claim Intel was getting rid of older staff.

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Intel's push for greater diversity hasn't helped it avoid trouble. The Wall Street Journal has learned that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating claims that Intel's large-scale layoffs discriminated against older employees. In a May 2016 round that cut 2,300 workers, for instance, the median age of those let go was 49 -- seven years older than those who remained. The EEOC hasn't decided whether or not it will file a class-action lawsuit against Intel, but the affected people will be free to pursue civil lawsuits if the regulator doesn't find enough evidence to pursue its own case.

The EEOC isn't allowed to confirm or deny investigations. However, an Intel spokesperson categorically denied that age played a role. The layoffs were meant to "fuel Intel's evolution" away from its PC focus and toward powering a variety of connected devices, it said. The representative maintained that factors like age were "not part of the process."

Whether or not these specific allegations are true, there's no question that age discrimination is a mounting concern at tech companies as a whole, including IBM (which is also facing an EEOC investigation). Older employees tend to be paid more, and frequently contrast sharply with a tech culture that values young, unattached programmers -- some of the top Silicon Valley companies have a median age of 30 or younger. Whether or not there's any truth to the allegations, there's a sense that older employees are easy targets for companies looking to cut costs and fill their ranks with flexible workers who aren't yet worrying about families or retirement.

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