The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed [a lower court decision] on Wednesday, ruling that PwC is entitled to litigate whether the unlicensed accountants can be exempted from overtime laws. The 9th Circuit remanded the case back to a district court in Sacramento, Calif. for more proceedings.
So, no this isn’t over. The actual trial still hasn’t gone down but this is definitely a big win for PwC.
A firm spokesperson provided us with the following statement: “PwC is pleased that the Ninth Circuit supported its arguments in this important case. The firm greatly values these employees and considers their work an integral part of PwC’s success.” An attempt to reach counsel for the plaintiffs was not immediately returned. Will keep you updated with any new details as we learn them.
Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers
~ Update includes oral argument date included in third paragraph
~ Update 2 includes correction of the spelling of “Stepan Mekhitarian” under the list of amicus briefs for the plaintiffs.
One of the stories that we’ve covered with interest since the launch of Going Concern has been the wage and hour lawsuits in California. For those needing a refresher, these are suits that were brought by non-licensed associates against various accounting firms (list of cases at bottom of this post) included who believe they were misclassified under California law as exempt professionals and are due overtime and other benefits due to non-exempt empl tle differently, “I worked a ton of hours during busy season and all I got was sleep deprivation, a fat ass and I still don’t have a CPA so, pretty please, I’d like a little more money.”
Every once in awhile we get asked about the status of these cases and since it’s been a
few months almost a year since our last post, we thought we’d update you briefly. You may remember that the main case, Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, is currently with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on interlocutory appeal over the issue of whether “learned professionals” can be defined as an exempt employees.
We recently spoke with a source familiar with the defense’s strategy in this case and learned that the two sides are to give oral arguments before the court
sometime early this year on February 15th, after which, the Court will likely render its decision in the latter part of 2011 (everyone’s hoping, anyway). Regardless of the decision in the 9th Circuit, the case will go back to the trial court, so get comfortable.
While the developments in the case have been slow, it is interesting to note that both sides are both confident in their chances of victory in the 9th Circuit and make no mistake, it’s an important ruling. If the 9th Circuit were to rule in the favor of the plaintiffs, it could very well be a quick resolution, as the plaintiffs’ attorney, Bill Kershaw told us in July 2009, “the likelihood of the case resolving itself prior to trial would substantially increase,” although, our source disagreed with this sentiment, so we’re counting on a battle.
Something else worth noting (that we may have glossed over in prior posts) is that there are suits brought in both state and federal court. The main difference being that at the state level, once a suit is classified as a class-action, individuals are classified as plaintiffs until they opt out while the cases at the federal level are “collective action” where once a particular group of people are identified as plaintiffs, they are given the chance to opt in to participate in the lawsuit. In other words, employees of a firm who are thought to be non-exempt under California law, are automatically members of the class-action in state court while in federal court, potential plaintiffs have to choose to participate voluntarily. This makes the federal cases broader in scope geographically but trials at the state level will have a larger number of members in the class-action, which could mean a larger settlement.
Finally, some additional new information that we have to pass along are the organizations that filed amicus briefs on behalf of both parties. Here are the groups that filed amicus briefs on behalf of both parties; the notables being the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AICPA for PwC:
Organizations Filing Amicus Briefs in Support of PwC
1. Employers Group, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, and California Chamber of Commerce (one brief)
2. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
3. California Employment Law Council
Organizations Filing Amicus Briefs in Support of Plaintiffs
1. California Employment Lawyers Association
2. Former Commissioner of the California Industrial Welfare Commission (Barry Broad) and Former Chief Counsels of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (Miles Locker and H. Thomas Cadell) (one brief)
3. Brandy Blaske, David Lee, Julia Longnecker,
Stephan Stepan Mekhitarian, and Svetlana V. Murphy (all are Plaintiffs in Mekhitarian, et al. v. Deloitte & Touche, a proposed class action involving D&T’s Tax line of service)
So while it will be some time before we’ll see a ruling in Campbell this year, not to mention a resolution at the trial level, you can bet lots of unlicensed PwC employees will be working plenty of hours this busy season.