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HR News You Can Use - Age Discrimination, Team Building

In this edition of HR News You Can Use we discuss the meaning of an impending age discrimination lawsuit that has been filed against HP and wonder whether this will be a bellwether moment.

We also take a lighter look at a trend that is emerging about providing stress relief and team building via the beating of office printers with baseball bats.

HP Faces Major Age Discrimination Case – Is This A Sign Of Things To Come?

An age-discrimination lawsuit was filed in mid-August against HP Inc.  and Hewlett Packard Enterprise  by four former employees accusing the pre-break versions of these companies of laying them off and transferring their jobs to younger workers. The lawsuit also includes allegations that HP had a system in place to encourage the practice of moving out older workers to make room for younger replacements.

Here is a chart showing the average employee age at some of the largest tech firms in the country.



What stands out immediately is that each firm listed has an average age that is less than 40. In the case of HP, it shows that they are at the high end (average age is 39). While I do not want to draw conclusions without evidence, it is interesting to note that (as quoted in Fortune):

Their complaint, which seeks class-action status, suggests that these employees were deliberately targeted for dismissal because of their age (all of them were older than 40 when they were let go) as part of CEO Meg Whitman’s master plan to move to a younger workforce. As evidence, they cite comments Whitman made back in 2012 to analysts about HP’s need to “reshape and recalibrate” its labor pyramid to include more younger people: “If you don’t have a whole host of young people who are learning how to do delivery or learning how to do these kinds of things, you will be in [for] real challenges.”

Taken on its own, Whitman’s comment is pretty innocuous. Certainly, no one could blame any manager for hiring with future succession in mind. Or for looking for candidates who have experience in newer skills, such as digital design or social media experience. Or for looking at a whole gamut of factors—from salaries to past performance—as a divining rod for deciding who stays and who goes during periods of belt-tightening. The suit suggests, however, HP went too far to make room on the payroll for younger workers. And Whitman’s mention of recalibration could prove problematic.

This may be the beginning of many more legal challenges to come. Tech firms need innovative thinking but it will be interesting to see if this means that older workers are automatically disqualified.

Printer Destruction As Team Building?

A funny article in the Wall Street Journal (Do You Really, Truly Hate Your Office Printer? There’s a Bat for That) discussed how small business start-ups are taking the cue from the cult movie classic Office Space and creating team building workshops centered around beating an office printer senseless with baseball bats.



The WSL article says:

Donna Alexander, proprietor of the Anger Room in Dallas, can barely keep her business stocked with printers for customers to crush. “Rage rooms,” as they’re known, are springing up all over the country for customers to vent their anger by smashing objects, including dishes and old furniture. Printers are often the most in-demand item. 

Once a month, Ms. Alexander drives around on heavy-trash day when homeowners leave large items at the curb for garbage pickup. Others may be on the lookout for recyclable goods. Her quarry is castoff printers. 

At Battle Sports in Toronto, rates begin at $45 Canadian for a 45-minute smashing session that includes a printer. The year-old company goes through at least 15 printers a week, and saves the biggest machines it can scavenge for corporate parties, said co-founder Steve Shew.