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The Olds vs. PwC: Federal Judge Seems Fine with Age Discrimination Lawsuit Settlement (UPDATE)

The $11.6 million settlement reached last March between PwC and two accountants who claimed they weren’t hired for associate positions with the firm because of their older age is a done deal. All that’s left is getting attorney fees figured out.

Law360 reported on Jan. 27:

A California federal judge said Wednesday he’ll approve PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s nearly $12 million deal to close the book on a job applicant’s collective action accusing the accounting firm of age discrimination, but held off on deciding the attorney fee request, which he pointed out is 40% higher than the Ninth Circuit’s benchmark.

During a hearing held over Zoom, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar congratulated the parties on the deal and said he thought it was a good one, particularly in light of the risks and legal gray areas on litigating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act claims. He also said he thought the company’s programmatic changes under the deal were substantial and worthwhile.

However, on a request by the job applicants’ counsel for 35% of the settlement for fees, the judge said he wouldn’t decide the matter from the bench. He pointed out that the request was 40% higher than the Ninth Circuit fee benchmark, or 25% of the settlementwhich he said many attorneys don’t realize.

“Nonetheless there is a … good faith basis for making that request,” Judge Tigar said, pointing to the “high legal risk” associated with the litigation.

Once approved, the deal would resolve litigation launched in 2016, over certified public accountant Steven Rabin’s claims that he was wrongly denied a job as a seasonal experienced associate when he was 50 years old.

PwC’s $12M Deal Ending Age Bias Suit Nears Final OK [Law360]

[This article was originally posted on Aug. 20.]

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Aug. 19 pretty much wrapped and put a bow on an $11.6 million settlement reached in March between PwC and two accountants who sued P. Dubs four years ago after they claimed they weren’t hired for associate positions with the firm because of their age.

Bloomberg Law reported today:

An agreement for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to pay $11.6 million to settle class action claims it discriminated against older job applicants was preliminarily approved by a federal court in California, which said the settlement appears fair and reasonable.

The plaintiffs charged that PwC maintained a biased recruiting system for entry-level accounting positions that favored younger applicants, implemented a mandatory early retirement policy, and refused to hire applicants age 40 or older for associate positions in its Tax and Assurance lines of service.

Of the $11,625,000 settlement, up to $4.95 million will go to attorneys’ fees and costs, up to $105,000 will go to settlement administration costs, and $20,000 will go to each of the two named plaintiffs.

The settlement includes a nationwide collective, as well as classes of California and Michigan applicants, with an estimated 5,000 members. Individual awards will be calculated using a point system that accounts for the claimants’ settlement class and their qualifications to work at PwC.

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

Co-plaintiff John Chapman said he also applied “numerous times” for a tax transfer pricing associate position with PwC when he was between the ages of 45 and 48 but was never hired.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who gave his preliminary blessing to the settlement on Wednesday, ruled last April that the age discrimination lawsuit could proceed as a collective action. Rabin and Chapman’s lawsuit sought to cover “all individuals aged 40 and older who, from October 18, 2013 forward, applied or attempted to apply but were not hired for a full-time covered position (associate, experienced associate, and senior associate) in the tax or assurance lines of service.”

The settlement also includes programmatic relief for a period of two years to “enhance PwC’s recruiting and hiring process for older workers who may wish to apply for covered positions in the future.” PwC is required to do the following, according to the court:

  • Hire an implementation expert to advise on training and recruitment matters;
  • Advertise directly to older applicants;
  • Refrain from asking pre-offer applicants their graduation date;
  • Include age as an aspect of PwC’s nondiscrimination policy;
  • Permit alumni to apply for on-campus openings of covered positions; and
  • Institute an age discrimination complaint procedure.

Before Tigar gives the settlement his final stamp of approval, the plaintiffs must revise their proposed notices to the class members because their procedures for objecting to or opting out of the settlement don’t conform with this district’s guidance, according to Bloomberg Law. Specifically, the notice should require only the information needed to object and opt out of the settlement and no “extraneous information,” such as individuals’ addresses and telephone numbers.

Tigar will set a date to wrap this whole deal up once he approves the revised proposed notices and authorizes the dissemination of such notices to the settlement classes.

PwC Age Discrimination Class Action Settlement Approved by Court [Bloomberg Law]

Related articles:

The Olds vs. PwC: $11.625 Million Settlement Reached In Age Discrimination Case
Older Job Seekers Denied Class-Action Status in Age Discrimination Lawsuit Against PwC
The Olds vs. PwC: Age Discrimination Case Can Proceed as a Collective Action