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Plaintiff in PwC Overtime Lawsuit Made a ‘Serious Error’ on One Engagement, Was Eventually Fired for Poor Performance

Yesterday we learned that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of PwC in the matter of Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the wage and hour class-action lawsuit filed in California. It’s a pretty major win for P. Dubs and the decision remands the case back to district court for trial. I was skimming over the 9th Circuit’s Decision in case over at Leagle and found some interesting things that I thought were worth sharing including some details about the named-plaintiff’s performance. The following anecdote seems to support the firm’s argument that unlicensed associates must “exercise discretion and independent judgment” and if they don’t, they will be held responsible:

PwC […] argues Plaintiffs perform analytical work “integral” to PwC’s Attest services. To the extent Plaintiffs do not regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment during an audit engagement, PwC says they are failing to meet the firm’s expectations. PwC emphasizes the variety of duties performed by Plaintiffs during an engagement and claims the failure to perform those tasks adequately can have “significant consequences” for PwC’s clients. During one engagement, for example, named-plaintiff Campbell overlooked approximately $500,000 in the client’s unrecorded liabilities. This oversight, which Campbell himself described as a “serious error,” was ultimately discovered by another team member. The error required a late financial adjustment and made the client unhappy.

While working for PwC, Campbell and Sobek each received some criticism over their job performance. In addition to the mistake described above, Campbell earned a “Less Than Expected” rating during his 2006 annual performance review. Sobek received the same rating during her 2005 review. More generally, PwC alleges both named-plaintiffs consistently fell below the firm’s expectations for Attest associates.

Campbell was terminated by PwC in 2006 for poor performance. Sobek resigned from the firm that same year.

Obviously just because Jason Campbell and Sarah Sobek both had performance ratings of “Less Than Expected” and that Mr. Campbell was fired does not mean that all 2,000 members of the class-action were of similar ratings. Regardless, it’s an interesting little nugget of information that we were not previously aware.

The rest of the opinion is pretty analytical, labor law stuff, so if you’re into that, the whole thing is worth a read, otherwise you can discuss as you wish below.

Ninth Circuit Rules for PwC in California Overtime Lawsuit

Reuters reports:

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.

Previous Coverage:
Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers