October 4, 2022

Older Job Seekers Denied Class-Action Status in Age Discrimination Lawsuit Against PwC

A federal judge in San Francisco rejected class-action status to a group of up to 14,000 older job applicants on July 26 who are accusing PwC of favoring younger workers over individuals over the age of 40 for entry-level positions within the firm.

The age discrimination lawsuit, which was filed in April 2016 by CPA Steve Rabin, claims that PwC’s practice of campus recruiting to fill staff positions puts more seasoned workers at a disadvantage. Rabin said he interviewed for an accounting job with PwC in 2013 when he was 50 years old but was turned down in favor of a younger accountant.

But according to a Law.com report, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California said the attorneys for Rabin and co-plaintiff John Chapman, who also applied “numerous times” for a PwC position while he was between the ages of 45 and 48 but was never hired, “failed to prove how the proposed class members were similarly situated.”

Tigar ruled against class-action status because “deterred and unqualified candidates were included in the proposed class,” the article stated:

The named plaintiffs applied for positions and were rejected, so therefore did not represent the entire proposed class, the judge said.

But Tigar is giving the plaintiffs and their attorneys a second chance to construct a proposed class:

He indicated some of the plaintiffs arguments were persuasive. The complaint alleged, among other things, PwC has uniform policies that lead to hiring younger workers.

The law firm Outten & Golden, representing the plaintiffs, pointed to on-campus recruiting efforts, witness declarations of comments made during initial screening and statistical analysis that purports to show the company’s workforce skews young. The plaintiffs estimate that the class ranged from 12,000 to 14,000 potential job applicants who were either rejected or deterred because of the company’s policies.

Tigar found that the plaintiffs have “adequately shown a uniform decision, policy or plan on the basis of PwC’s centralized and uniform hiring policies, and the substantial evidence of age disparities in hiring.” The company’s arguments to the contrary would be better addressed in later stages of the proceeding, he said.

PwC contends that its hiring practices are merit-based and “have nothing to do with age.” In a statement to Law.com, Emily Nicklin of Chicago-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis, who argued for PwC during a class certification hearing in February, said:

“We are pleased with the court’s order to deny even preliminary certification. The plaintiff’s claims are simply false. PwC devotes enormous resources to recruiting a diverse workforce that includes people of all ages and experience levels. PwC is fortunate to be a sought-after employer, and hires fewer than 5% of those who apply.”

Tigar said the plaintiffs have 30 days to file any amended motion for class certification “to cure the deficiencies identified in this order,” according to Law.com.

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