HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. were hit with an age and race discrimination lawsuit Monday claiming job cuts at the two Hewlett-Packard spinoffs since 2012 disproportionately affected older, black workers.
Lawyers at Winston Cooks in Birmingham, Alabama, and The Greene Law Firm in San Francisco filed suit on behalf of two former and one current black HP employee claiming they were repeatedly passed over for promotions.
“HP, in contravention of its own allegedly non-discriminatory hiring practices, does not post all jobs and instead relies on a ‘tap on the shoulder’ procedure whereby it awards positions of higher pay and prestige to Caucasian employees,” the lawyers wrote. “HP allowed an overwhelmingly Caucasian group of selectors to use a ‘hazy’ selection process for its employment decisions.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers allege the company’s practices resulted in a disproportionately low percentage of blacks in management and “a disparate impact on the number of African-Americans in their work force, in that it has reduced their numbers significantly.”
The lawsuit, which seeks to certify a class of current and former black HP employees, comes as a separate age discrimination suit filed last August on behalf of older HP workers proceeds before U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose. In that suit, plaintiffs claim the company blatantly favored younger people in filling its ranks after a massive 30,000-employee round of layoffs in 2012, and subsequent cuts.
HP Inc. and HPE, represented by counsel at Littler Mendelson in the earlier suit, have sought to force some employee claims into arbitration and have moved to dismiss the suit altogether arguing plaintiffs have failed to show the layoffs had a disparate impact based on age discrimination.
HPE in a written statement Tuesday said employment decisions are based on factors not related to age or race.
“HPE has a long-standing policy of equal employment opportunity and is committed to a culture of inclusion and diversity,” HPE said. “Employment decisions at HPE are based on legitimate factors unrelated to age, race or any other protected characteristic.”
Publicly, Kim Rivera, chief legal officer and general counsel of HP Inc., has advocated for more diversity in the ranks of the company’s outside counsel. Rivera, who was the cover subject of the June issue of The American Lawyer magazine, announced a new diversity mandate in February requiring the company’s outside firms to have a diverse relationship partner on HP matters or have one woman or “racially/ethnically diverse attorney” performing at least 10 percent of the billable hours.
“The legal profession should be, in my view, at the forefront of understanding that you should fundamentally reflect the entire population,” Rivera told TAL. “It’s hard to create a system that is experienced, fair, just and equal by all when it overwhelmingly underrepresents major portions of the people that it affects.”
Ross Todd is bureau chief of The Recorder in San Francisco. He writes about litigation in the Bay Area and around California. Contact Ross at email@example.com. On Twitter: @Ross_Todd.