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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Issues Legal "Determination" Finding Intel Corp. Systemically 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

 1858 Days and Still Counting

On February 12th, 2021, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a Determination letter with a legal finding that Intel Corp. systematically 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.

It took the EEOC, a U.S. Federal law-enforcement agency, more than 5 years (61 months) to issue its Determination Letter to both Intel Corporation and the affected employees, who were laid off in 2015. 

What did the EEOC do during the 1858 days, since a formal complaint against Intel Corporation was officially filed with the EEOC?

The official position of the EEOC is that it is "working with the Employer". What does it mean? A law enforcement agency of the U.S. Government collaborating with a Civil Rights law violator?

Is this yet another case of "Corporate Welfare" program preventing the public from understanding the true facts of the case? Any other explanation?

The Intel July 2015 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 spiraling down series of manufacturing failures resulting in the company losing its leading position in the semiconductor industry to multiple competitors.

A year later, (April-May 2016) Intel Corp., upped the ante and laid off additional 12,000 employees, most of them very experienced. Though the consequences of the massive layoffs were not immediately apparent at the time.

However, in reality, 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).

You can refer to a previously published article on our website for further reference about Intel Corp. strategy for replacing its (older) experienced workforce with younger and cheaper replacements.

See:
Useful diagrams for explaining Intel Corp selection of employees for termination in 2015 and 2016 

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 cases until one of Intel Corp. employees, who were affected by the layoffs, presented the Commission with indisputable evidence of systemic wrongdoing.

Ron Tsur delivering presentation at Intel technical conference during Summer 2015

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.

April 30, 2021 UPDATE:
"The Register" news outlet published an online article covering Mr. Tsur recent Federal Court lawsuit filing.
(See: Intel laid me off for being too old, engineer claims in lawsuit).

Prior to his inclusion in the July 2015 mass layoff, 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 correlation between the 2015 layoffs of approximately 1200 experienced employees, the "follow on" layoff of 12,000 employees in 2016, and the subsequent Intel Corp. consistent series of manufacturing blunders? Coincidence?

In mid 2015, Mr. Tsur and his supervisors were shocked at the company HR move to lay-off Mr. Tsur from his job as part of the mass layoff. To Mr. Tsur and his management chain, the layoff notice seemed at first as an "administrative error". Nothing made much sense in the way that the company presented either the reasons for the layoffs or the way in which employees were selected for "termination".

The Intel Corp. HR mandated layoff edict was particularly puzzling to Mr. Tsur and his management chain. 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 the endlessly repeating new chip failures, found during internal validation and testing of the (then) new 14nm silicon manufacturing process.

During 2014 and 2015, Mr. Tsur, being the principal Systems Software Architect within the Intel Corporation Electrical Validation Tools and Enabling department, was heavily involved in defining, architecting and prototyping, modern data analysis solutions that were aimed at significantly updating Intel Corp. (legacy) 20's Century chip manufacturing physical (electrical) test methodologies. These included among other novel approaches, collecting electrical behavioral data, directly at Intel Corporation OEM factories, using "big data" analysis and deploying machine learning tools to establish cause/effect relationship on solid factual basis, using advanced "semantics-based" data collection.

The goal of Mr. Tsur's leading initiative was to utilize high volume, data-driven, testing and rapid failure analysis methodologies, taking advantage of 21st Century capabilities. This approach was among other things, focused towards eliminating tens of thousands of man-hours that were otherwise, spent on manual fact finding and (slow) manual analysis. Mr. Tsur initiative was directed at increasing the efficiency of the electrical validation process and saving the company, tens of million dollars each year. In addition Mr. Tsur was developing a "unified, semantics-rich" hierarchical-data framework, aimed at resolving ambiguities in data collections and accelerating the data analysis process.

Mr. Tsur initiated his R&D "path finding" projects after it became apparent to Intel Corporation Electrical validation Department staff (in 2014), that the new 14nm and 10nm based silicon designs presented significantly new reliability testing and manufacturing challenges, necessitating radically new methodologies and novel 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 upcoming 10nm manufacturing processes.

Note that electrical validation work is routinely conducted during the R&D and early manufacturing phases of every company new silicon product, not only at Intel Corporation. However, Intel Corporation (very smartly) provided early prototype samples of future chip products to its network of OEM customers, such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Etc., during this phase as "engineering Samples", under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Giving away "engineering samples" of early silicon, is common practice in the semiconductor industry. The intention behind this type of early sharing of partially-qualified silicon chips, is to enable the OEM customers technical staff to get an early experience with new silicon functions and features, in parallel to Intel Corporation chips "incremental maturation" process.

Early exposure to even partially functional new chips, is very helpful policy for  enabling the OEM design engineers to better evaluate and understand new product features, adopt better system integration doctrines and thereby cut down market readiness of their final consumer products.

However, in early 2014, significant "Head-Start" failures of silicon engineering samples produced an alarming warning signal with OEMs who began to seriously suspecting Intel Corp. ability to deliver promised new silicon chips for OEM new line of products, using the 14nm silicon manufacturing process.

Today, after more than six years of repeating HVM manufacturing blunders, this multi-year series of failures is already a well established historic fact. Intel Corp. excuses for its inability to overcome its production quality problems, continued  for long time to be presented as "technical in nature". The corporate PR machine was apparently, operating at full steam, hiding the human factors associated with Intel Corp. failure to deliver reliable silicon chips to its customers. 

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 were either ignored or shoved under the carpet, in order to keep company stock and bond investors at bay.

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.

It is not very clear if Intel Corporation actually gained a lot by firing 1155 of its experienced employees during July 2015. Today it is quite apparent that Intel Corp. executive management in 2015, did not consider their own experienced employees, as tangible assets.

It has become apparent that  CEO Brian Krazanich and his executive team viewed all employees as an easily replaceable "commodity", not unlike shopping for toilette paper or paper clips, they were looking for the lowest bidders to displace their mature "human capital". Highly experienced employees no longer counted as the core "asset" of the company. This represented a major departure from the heydays of Intel Corporation, under the leadership of its late Co-founder, Dr. Andrew Grove, who considered Intel Employees to be the core value of the company.

For reasons that have never been explained by Intel Corporation, Mr. Tsur's layoff edict was never given a fair HR legal review or a chance of appeal, as required  by documented HR procedures. The Intel Employee Handbook, specifically spells the right of any employee to question, rebuttal and appeal management decisions, including employment termination, via formal hearing, known as "Open Door". Intel Corporation violated its own HR "checks and balances" procedures by blocking all venues for Mr Tsur and his management chain to represent their facts, in support of reversing Mr. Tsur's layoff.

Although "Open Door" appeals hearings during 2015, were openly well documented in the company's HR Employee Handbook, the HR department blatantly violated its own rules. Since the Intel HR Employee Handbook is part of the employment contract between the company and its employees, in addition to issues of State and Federal Civil Rights violations, a violation of private sector employment terms, also constitutes breach of contract.

Mr. Tsur was informed by an HR Legal Investigator that direct orders from Intel Corp. CEO and its executive management committee, (internally known as MCM) instructed the HR Legal department to block any such investigation or hearing at the very moment that selected employees were issued the 30 day termination notice.

Curiously, some other employees, younger than Mr. Tsur, were granted "open Door" hearings and some of them, actually received a reversal of their layoff order. Others were given a chance to convert their involuntary layoff into forced (involuntary) "early retirement", in return for some perks, conditioned on keeping the terms of their separation, silent and away from public exposure.

While still serving at the Jones Farm campus of Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon, after receiving his a 30 day termination notice prior to his layoff in July 2015, Mr. Tsur (62 years old at the time) who among other things, is also an experienced data scientist, examined the content of the 2015 layoffs report that was issue to him along with 1200 other employees, as part of their layoff notice.

[Note: the referenced report is a Federally mandated document, known as OWBPA, specifying the company job categories, and the ages of employees selected for layoff, vs. those who were excluded from layoff]

Upon scrutiny of the facts, Mr. Tsur discovered from his data analysis of the OBWBPA report, a very conspicuous correlation between an affected (selected to be laid off) employee age and the probability of such employee to be laid off.

Mr. Tsur's conclusions regarding the apparent age discrimination "disparate impact" present in the 2015 layoffs, were independently affirmed a few weeks later, when the Oregonian news outlet ran an independent analysis of the OWBPA Report. The OregonianLive, published an article, written by Mike Rogoway, highlighting the overwhelming age-related correlation manifested at the core of the 2015 layoffs, as demonstrated in the chart below.

From the published chart, Mr. Tsur who was 62 years old at the time of his layoff,  it becomes apparent that Mr. Tsur 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. Note that Federal and State employment laws, such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), were written by the U.S. Congress, specifically, to protect employees of age 40+ or older from age discrimination.
 
Mr. Tsur concluded that Intel Corp. violated the civil rights of a large number of employees who were 40 years old or older. Mr. Tsur was one among the many whose Civil Rights were trampled upon during the July 2015 layoff.
 
Establishing that his employment termination was in fact unlawful, for multiple reasons, Mr. Tsur refused to accept the separation agreement that Intel Corp. (euphemistically name) "People Movement" department, tried to coerce him to sign. Mr. Tsur 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 investigating the peculiar ways in which Intel Corp. presented the 2015 layoff in its communications to company employees and the company's PR statements, Mr. Tsur filed an age discrimination complaint with Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) and concurrently with the Federal Government Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
 
[Note: Oregon BOLI (see: FEPA) acted as a paid subcontractor to the EEOC for registering and filing civil rights and discrimination complaints of employees charging their employers with unlawful conduct. Mr. Tsur's complaint was co-filed with BOLI and the EEOC on January 12th, 2016. This filing was officially recorded longer than five years ago.]
 
As a Whistleblower, Mr. Tsur also provided Oregon BOLI and the EEOC with information indicating that Intel Corp. systematically violated both State and Federal laws, meant to protect employees from age discrimination in employment practices.

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 sworn testimony affidavits from his former supervisors at Intel Corp. Additional testimonies were collected from other company managers and ex-employees. Mr. Tsur expected the EEOC to quickly determine the merit of his charges, since these charges were significantly substantiated and supported with clear evidence.
 
The EEOC claims that the average time it takes to investigate and resolve a charge was about 10 months in 2015.
 
April 30, 2021 UPDATE"The Register" news outlet published an online article covering Mr. Tsur recent Federal Court lawsuit filing. (See: Intel laid me off for being too old, engineer claims in lawsuit).
 
Mr. Tsur is hoping that an open court trial will expose to the public, the rampant age discrimination that Intel Corp. practiced over a long period of time, without consequences.
 
Ageism appears to be a particularly rampant phenomena in the High Tech economic sector.
 
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 under suspicion of shady HR practices. The EEOC investigation began as early as 2016, afetr Mr. Tsur provided the EEOC with significant facts about the case.
 
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 being effective in performing its role as the Civil Rights employment law enforcement agency of the U.S. Federal Government.
 
In spite of enduring significant personal sacrifices over many years of being "black listed" by employers in the high-tech industry, due to his public confrontation of Intel Corporation mistreatment of its employees, Mr. Tsur persisted relentlessly to drive the EEOC to come up with case Determination that found Intel Corporation in violation of its older employees Civil Rights on February 12 2021.

 
After five years and one month (61 months, or 1858 days to be exact). The EEOC finally issued, a "Determination Letter" stating that Intel Corp. violated the age discrimination provisions of Title-VII and the ADEA afforded to employees of age 40+.

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
 
Unfortunately, even the Oregonian article only scratches the surface of the Intel Corp. employment discrimination case. It is very likely that a public trial will be the only avenue to expose the full extent of Intel Corp. unlawful employment practices while also highlighting how both the State and Federal agencies that are in charge of employment law enforcement in our country seem to be incompetent and are systemically operating in a mode, seemingly rigged to fail employee plaintiffs attempts to achieve justice. 
 
Considering the ADEA, that last major law governing protection of employee civil rights in the U.S. was written in 1967 and all attempts to revise this law were systematically quashed by lobbying campaigns financed by large corporations. 
 
The U.S. Congress lack of remedial legislative action to update existing employment related laws to match today's job market realities, is also a major dereliction of duty, contributing to unabated and long enduring age discrimination phenomena.

Important 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.

As CRN reported on May 20, 2021, Intel top management behavior created serious credibility and trust issues with company shareholders:
 
Let it be clear on this point: corporations are not people and we have no animosity towards Intel Corp. as a (non-person) business entity. On the other hand, employees and company executive officers, are people. People make mistakes and even commit crimes and atrocities that have consequences. When operating within the context of for-profit business corporations, company managers and executive officers are responsible for their own individual actions; however, in addition to that, the corporation caries liability for its managers and executives actions.
 
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.
 
"1300 Thieves"
 
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" became 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 to fill up the company ranks and the loss of many experienced "mentors", sunk employee moral to the bottom, deepened 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 "essential asset" had a corrosive long-term effect. Exploiting cheap "indentured laborers" through H1B visas and "green card" sponsorship, in addition to employing "foreign labor interns" who earned very little money under the OPT program was another way for Intel Executives to cut labor costs. Who of these executives really cared about "company culture" as being essential for achieving execution results? Quality and cohesiveness of the company "human capital", were not even part of the picture for these executives, in their zeal to collect their annual executive bonuses.
 
 "Swan Wars - The Empire Strikes Backwards"
 
No wonder that Mr. Swan (an accountant by trade) 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-deterioration related, not much could be repaired, without radical course correction to reestablish employee trust in executive management.
 
 
Even the new CEO's best intentions and grand declarations had limited effect, due to the permanent decimation of the old "Intel Culture" practitioners. Mr. swan's bookkeeping mastery may have kept the stock holders at bay for a while longer; however, from many external points of view his efforts could be depicted as: "Swan Wars - The Empire Strikes Backwards"...
 
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, inexperienced younger replacements (NCGs in "Intel Speak"), resulted in major backfires due to the disastrous HR practices and edicts, initiated by Intel Corp. CEO Krazanich and the abysmal degree of supervision on the part of Intel Board of Directors.
 
Trained Labor "Shortages"
 
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. At the same time, Intel Corp. claims that it cannot find enough qualified employees in the U.S. and therefore lobbies the U.S. State Department to import tens of thousands of cheap foreign workers, through H1B visa sponsorship programs, "Green Card" sponsorship and foreign worker "internship programs", known as Optional Practical Training (OPT).
 
National Security

Intel Corp. is also mobilizing its high-powered PR machine to convince the current U.S. Government to "donate" our tax payer's money to subsidize their manufacturing facilities to the tune of tens of Billions of dollars. Currently Intel Corp. maintains multi-billion dollar facilities in the following location in:
  • Dalian, China - FAB Production Site
  • Shanghai, China - assembly and test site
  • Chengdu, China - assembly and test site
In addition to other facilities in:
  • San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Kulim, Malaysia
  • Penang, Malaysia
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Suddenly, semiconductor manufacturing becomes a matter of National Security. 

Never mind the multi-billion dollar investment that Intel Corp. established in China over the last decade.
 
Apparently, National Security was not considered a problem until after Intel Corp. began experiencing business losses stemming from laying off their domestic, experienced (and older) employees...
 
To some politicians it still makes sense to subsidize a large corporation that lay off their domestic experienced employees and replace them with imported foreign labor, financed by our taxpayer's dollars! Ask your own Senator or member of progress about their support for "Corporate Welfare" of this kind.
 
Corrective Actions
For the benefit of ex-employees who were wronged by the company, as well as for the well-being of current employees and the future benefit of Intel Corp. stock holders, Pat Gelsinger, the new appointed CEO will see good reasons to correct the situation. This must begin by negotiating a fair settlement with wronged ex-employees, correct HR procedures regarding hiring and firing and release the company stock holders from liabilities imposed by Brian Krzanich terrible legacy. 

References:

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