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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Issues Legal "Determination" Finding Intel Corp. Systematically, Violated Civil Rights of its Older Employees


All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

 --Arthur Schopenhauer

On February 12th, 2021, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a Determination letter with a legal finding that Intel Corp. systemically violated Civil Rights of its employees. The finding was issued in conjunction with the 2015 layoffs action in which 1,155 employees were permanently laid off, in addition to several hundred additional employees and managers who were forced to accept early retirement.

The layoff was the first step of a strategy, conceived by then Intel CEO Brian Krzanich (BK), to replace aging employees with younger and much cheaper newcomers. For Intel Corp., this layoff also marked the beginning of a five year collapse from leading the semiconductor industry through a series of botched executive moves. In 2016 Intel Corp., again under orders from BK laid off additional 12,000 employees, most of them very experienced. By ridding itself of experienced employees Intel Corp. lost the ability to execute the reliable High Volume Manufacturing (HVM), which the company excelled at for many years in the past. Successful execution of HVM is the "make-or-break life blood" of all chip factories (commonly known as FABs).

Although the EEOC in its official capacity is charged with monitoring for employers' discriminatory behavior on a continuous basis, The EEOC claims that it was not aware of the employee discrimination case until one of Intel Corp. employees, who were affected by the layoffs, presented the Commission with indisputable evidence of systemic wrongdoing.

The individual who brought the EEOC's attention to Intel Corp. law violations is Ron Tsur, who prior to being laid off by Intel Corp., held the position of Principal Software Architect for the Electrical Validation Enabling Department.

Mr. Tsur worked at a corporate-level department with responsibility for validating, qualifying and certifying leading-edge (newly designed R&D prototype) computer chips, during the process of readying the silicon designs to move into the final phase of production, known as High Volume Manufacturing (HVM).

Note that reliable HVM process execution is exactly where Intel Corp. is experiencing severe problems for the last five years. Is there a Coincidence between the 2015 layoffs of approximately 1200 experienced employees and the subsequent Intel Corp. consistent series of manufacturing blunders?

Mr. Tsur and his supervisors were shocked at the company HR move to lay-off Mr. Tsur from his job. To Mr. Tsur and his management chain, the layoff notice seemed at first as an "administrative error". The HR layoff edicts was particularly puzzling, since Mr. Tsur at the time led a major effort to develop advanced testing and analysis methods that would enable the company to focus on identifying the root cause of chip failures found during internal validation and testing of the (then) new 14nm silicon manufacturing process.


Ron Tsur delivering presentation at Intel technical conference during Summer 2015

During 2014 and 2015, Mr. Tsur, being the top Software Systems Architect within the Electrical Validation Enabling Department, was at the thick of defining, architecting and prototyping, modern data analysis solutions that were aimed at significantly updating Intel Corp. (legacy) 20's Century methodologies. The goal of Mr. Tsur's initiative was to utilize high volume, data-driven, testing and rapid failure analysis methodologies, taking advantage of 21st Century capabilities. It was apparent to the Electrical validation Department staff, at the time, that the new 14nm and 10nm based silicon designs presented significantly new testing and manufacturing challenges, necessitating new problem solving approach.

Immediately prior to his inclusion in the 2015 mass layoff, Mr. Tsur's department at Intel Corp. was focused at enabling the company to effectively identify the possible nature and root cause of the HVM problems that plagued the 14nm and 10nm manufacturing processes. Electrical validation work was routinely conducted during the R&D and early manufacturing phases of every company silicon product. It was also very common for the company to provides early samples of future products to its network of OEM customers, such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Etc., during this phase.

Giving away "engineering samples" of early silicon, is common practice in the semiconductor industry. The intention behind this type of sharing non-qualified silicon parts, is to enable OEM technical staff to get a "head-start" on their own products and presumably shorten the OEM product integration time and cut down market readiness of their consumer products.

"Head-Start" failures of silicon engineering samples produced an alarming warning signal with OEMs who began suspecting Intel Corp. ability to deliver promised new silicon chips for OEM new line of products. Today, this multi-year series of failures is considered, established history. Intel Corp. excuses for its inability to overcome its production quality problems,were for long time presented as "technical in nature". The corporate PR machine was apparently, working at full steam at at hiding the human factors associated with Intel Corp. failure to deliver reliable silicon chips to its customers and in particular, the long-term effects that the 2015 and 2016 massive employee layoffs inflicted on Intel Corp. internal organization and its ability to execute and produce.

In spite of his management chain's protests to the HR department, highlighting the potential damage caused by ridding Mr. Tsur expertise from the company, the layoff process inertia dominated the scene and subsequently, Mr. Tsur was laid off in mid-July 2015, alongside approx. 1200 of his peers.

Unlike other cases, Mr. Tsur's layoff edict was never given a fair HR legal review or a chance of appeal. The appeal process, other known at Intel as an "Open Door Investigation" was in 2015, a standard part of the company documented HR processes. Overriding this policy, was a very unusual step on the part of the company. The HR Legal Representative that Mr. Tsur contacted at the time in an attempt to open an Open Door Hearing of his case, told Mr. Tsur that the order to block his appeal attempts came from the top executive echelon of the company known as MCM. Curiously, many other employees, actually received a right to appeal their layoff order and some successfully won a reversal of their termination, as a result.

While still being on a 30 day termination notice prior to his layoff in July 2015, Mr. Tsur, who was 62 years old at the time and among other things is also an experienced data scientist, examined the content of the 2015 layoffs report that was issue to him along 1200 other employees, as part of their layoff notice. (this is a Federally mandated report, knows a OWBPA, specifying the company job categories, and the ages of employees selected for layoff, vs. those who were excluded from layoff). What Mr. Tsur discovered from the official report, was the that there was a very conspicuous correlation between an affected (selected to be laid off) employee age and the probability of such employee to be laid off, as indicated by the OBWBPA report mentioned above.

Mr. Tsur's conclusions regarding the apparent age discrimination presence in the 2015 layoffs, were independently affirmed a few weeks later, when the Oregonian newspaper ran an independent analysis of the OWBPA Report and consequently, published an article, written by Mike Rogoway, highlighting the overwhelming age-related correlation demonstrated by the chart below.

From the published chart, Mr. Tsur who was 62 years old at the time of his layoff, found that his chances of being selected for layoff appear more than four times (4x) higher than an employee who is under 40 and (6x) than employees 30 year old or younger. Since both Federal and State employment laws, such as the ADEA, protect employees 40+ or older from age discrimination, Mr. Tsur concluded that Intel Corp. violated the civil rights of him and many of his colleagues.
Establishing that his employment termination was unlawful for many reasons, Mr. Tsur refused to accept the separation agreement that Intel Corp. (euphemistically name) "People Movement" department tried to coerce him to sign. He was not going to give up his rights for pittance, particularly since he knew very well that his employment termination was not only unjustified but unlawful too.
After spending a few months of researching the peculiar ways in which Intel Corp. presented the 2015 layoff in its communications to company employees and PR statements, Mr. Tsur filed an age discrimination complaint with Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) and the EEOC.
Note: BOLI (see: FEPA) acts as a paid subcontractor to the EEOC for filing discrimination complaints of employees charging their employers for unlawful conduct. Mr. Tsur's complaint was co-filed with BOLI and the EEOC on January 12th, 2016. That was longer than five years ago.

During the next 1,858 days, Mr. Tsur kept providing the EEOC with ample evidence of employment discrimination, legal arguments and first-person sworn witness testimonies, including those of his former supervisors at Intel Corp. Additional testimonies were collected from other company managers and ex-employees. Mr. Tsur epected the EEOC to quickly determine the merit of his charges, which were significantly substantiated.
The EEOC claims that the average time it takes to investigate and resolve a charge was about 10 months in 2015.
Mr. Tsur showed EEOC investigators evidence of systemic Civil Rights violations exercised by Intel Corp. that affected thousands of employees. This evidence initiated the EEOC investigation of the company and revealed suspicion of shady HR practices, as early as 2016.
However, as the years went by, without visible action on the part of the Federal agency, Mr. Tsur began sensing that he is being treated as an "enemy of the state" by the Federal bureaucracy, for his persistence of seeking justice for himself and his peers.
By all standards, the unusually long record of 1,858 days to process the evidence that Mr. Tsur presented to the EEOC, does not cast favorable light on the performance of the EEOC and its bureaucracy as a U.S. Federal Government agency. In spite of incurring significant personal sacrifices, Mr. Tsur persisted relentlessly to drive the agency to come up with case resolution, throughout the years.
After five years and one month (61 months, or 1858 days to be exact). The EEOC issued a "Determination" that Intel Corp. violated the age discrimination provisions of Title-VII and the ADEA afforded to employees of age 40+.

As of last standing, Mr. Tsur is seeking competent legal representation for his case, in preparation for filing lawsuit against Intel Corp. Mr. Tsur is hoping that public court trial will expose to the public, the rampant age discrimination that Intel Corp. practiced over a long period of time.

The Oregonian news organization that has been following up on Intel Corp. mass layoffs since 2015, recently published an article covering the current state of this case. See: https://www.oregonlive.com/silicon-forest/2021/02/intel-discriminated-against-eight-older-workers-in-2015-layoffs-eeoc-finds.html


Final notes:
Recently, key investor Three Point LLC warned Intel Corp. and threatened to begin installing new members on Intel’s board if the company didn’t take steps to address its “human capital management issue” and manufacturing delays.
The layoff of thousands of experienced employees, some of them at key positions (like Mr. Tsur who had direct expertise in monitoring and systemically analyzing the 14nm FAB failures), robbed the company of valuable human assets. Due to this mass employees departure, "human capital" with pertinent long-term expertise of system knowledge and problem solving was permanently lost to the detriment of Intel Corp., affecting the company's abilities to execute most of its missions.
Very unwisely and perhaps also illegally,, CEO Krzanich ordered that the HR department mark the personal record of each laid off employee with a "special code", barring all laid off employees from being rehired by Intel Corp., for life... This move insured that the "human capital loss" become permanent!
IT employees who worked at the company at the time testified that the BK "special code" inserted into personnel files, actually tagged all employees who were laid off in July of 2015, as "thieves". This insured that the HR department will be "signaled" each time that a hiring manager attempts to hire an employee that was included in the 2015 layoff, and subsequently, block the potential employee re-hiring through "automatic decree".
Secretly "profiling" employees and attributing unproven criminal charge on their personnel record is a serious offense. This specific allegation was brought to the attention of the EEOC investigators and publicized on our web site in 2019 (see: https://www.pdx-tie.org/2019/06/intel-corp-marked-employees-as-thieves.html). 
We have no notion if the EEOC ever investigated the facts behind this specific charge. If the agency did not investigate the specific facts associated with the above mentioned "employee profiling", perhaps the EEOC becomes complicit in the violation.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Abraham Lincoln

The evidence of Intel manufacturing systems failures beginning immediately following the mid-year 2015 layoffs is indisputable. For those of us who spent our careers in the semiconductor industry, Intel executives' false moves, to coverup its crumbling manufacturing capacity, as a "technical issue" seem rather pathetic. 
Instead of recognizing the devastation of the company internal culture, following the 2015/2016 mass layoffs as root cause, they resorted to cheap hiring practices and bad external acquisitions, all seemingly frivolous actions, lacking business sense and allowing Intel competitors to displace Intel from its leadership position in the semiconductor industry.
Even after disgraced CEO krzanich was fired from his position and replaced by another CEO, the loss of "experienced human capital" was devastating. Intel Corp.was not able to make up any gains in execution at the FABs. Using the cheaper and inexperienced young workers who filled up the company ranks and the loss of many experienced "mentors", sunk employee moral to the bottom, magnified the distrust between the "rank and file employees" and executive management. Ignorance, loss of personal motivation and shear incompetence displaced the "Intel Culture" that was the life-blood of Intel Corp. during its hey days.
Treating employees as "commodity" rather than as an "asset" had a corrosive long-term effect. No wonder that Mr. Swan who succeeded BK as Intel CEO was unable to put the genie back in the bottle in the aftermath of his predecessor's blunders, in spite of correctly identifying the company's main problems as employee culture related!
However, even a CEO's best intentions and grand declarations had limited power, due to the disappearance of the old "Intel Culture" practitioners.
The genie is not anything that you want (or can) mess with
Transactional HR policies initiated to save the company money in the short term, by trading older (and more expensive) with cheaper, though inexperienced younger replacements these practitioners, resulted in a major backfire. All employees laid off en-mass during the 2015/2016 massive layoffs and were forced to sign separation agreements that excluded them from being rehired by Intel Corp. for the rest of their lives.
Hopefully, and for the benefit of ex-employees who were wronged by the company, as well as for the well-being of current employees and for the future sake of Intel Corp. stock holders, Pat Gelsinger, the new appointed CEO will see good reasons to negotiate a fair settlement with wronged ex-employees, correct HR procedures regarding hiring and firing and release the company stock holders from liabilities imposed by BK's terrible legacy.