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Dell hit with $500m discrimination suit

'Old boys network'

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Four former senior Dell HR executives, all women, have filed a $500m class action that accuses the company of systemic gender and age discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, alleges Dell unfairly targeted women and employees over 40 in the big round of recent lay-offs, which sees 10 per cent of staff worldwide - about 8,800 in total - losing their jobs. The cull will result in men holding 80 per cent of management positions, according to the lawsuit.

Dell is also accused of "gross pay and promotion inequities" in its treatment of women.

The lawsuit seeks to change "Dell's discriminatory policies regarding pay, job placement, promotion, and termination. The lawsuit demands $500 million in damages for a class of thousands of current and former Dell female managers and executives, and older employees disproportionately affected by the company's mass layoffs in 2007 and 2008," law firm Sanford Wittels & Heisler said, in a press release.

Dell is an "old-boys network" with no women in its 14-strong top rank of executives, "This dearth of women at the highest reaches of the company sets the tone for women's poor representation in its upper-level professional and executive ranks, and helps explain the pay and promotion disparities women encounter at Dell," the lawsuit alleges.

According to David Sanford, class counsel, the case will be won on the statistical evidence. "The numbers don't lie. Once Dell produces its pay, promotion, and layoff records and statistics, we are confident the truth will come out and our clients' claims of discrimination will be vindicated."

A second, separate case, filed last week in Texas, claims Dell prevents women from advancing to senior positions and keeps them off training courses which would help them get such jobs. The case also seeks class action status - effectively opening it up to any Dell, or ex-Dell, staffer.®

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