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(UPDATE) PwC Figured Employees Won’t Need to Sue Them Anyway

We received an item of great importance to some of you in the tip box, those of you impacted by this news out of PwC should already be aware of it but everyone else, read on:

The Office of General Counsel
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
March 31, 2014

We are writing to inform you of an important legal agreement affecting your rights that will become effective on July 1, 2014, unless you click on the box below marked “I decline” at or before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on June 30, 2014.

While rare, from time to time legal disputes arise between the firm and one of its employees. To help expedite resolution of these issues, the firm is instituting a new policy of resolving these matters through arbitration.

Arbitration is a faster, more private and less costly method of dispute resolution than litigation. Under the arbitration process, parties submit their legal dispute to a neutral third party, the arbitrator, who will review information and evidence from the parties, listen to witnesses, and render a final and binding decision.

The process is less formal than litigation (for example, there is no jury present); however, arbitration is an orderly proceeding, governed by legal standards of conduct. The amounts and types of relief awarded in arbitration are the same as those available in court. It’s important to note that arbitration is not intended to replace the firm’s existing communications channels for raising certain matters. Should you have concerns that would typically be resolved by your coach, partner, LoS Ethics & Compliance leader, relationship partner, Risk Management or HR, please reach out to those parties directly. You may also contact the Ethics & Compliance group at 1-888-4-ETHICS.

Attached is an important legal agreement by which you and the firm agree to submit to final and binding arbitration most legal disputes relating to your employment with the firm. You will also be sent a copy of the agreement via first-class mail. Under the agreement, you and the firm mutually waive the right to a trial before a judge or jury in court in favor of arbitration for all covered claims. The agreement requires that covered claims be arbitrated on an individual basis, and prohibits claims on a class, collective, consolidated or representative basis. Please review the agreement carefully and direct any questions you may have to (813) 348-7854.

You are a member of the proposed class the plaintiff seeks to represent in the lawsuit Adamov, individually, and on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated current and former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, in which the plaintiff alleges that he and the others he seeks to represent have been improperly classified as exempt from overtime compensation, and that they are therefore owed overtime wages and other relief. The agreement applies to the claims being asserted in the Adamov case, and accepting the agreement will have the effect of precluding your participation in the Adamov case. If you choose to accept the agreement, you do not need to take any further action other than continuing your employment with the firm on or after July 1, 2014. Should you wish to decline the agreement, you may do so by clicking on the box below marked “I decline” at or before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on June 30, 2014. Please be assured that, should you decline the agreement, it will not adversely affect the terms or conditions of your employment with the firm.

Please note that your signature is NOT required for acceptance of the agreement. You will be deemed to have accepted, and will be bound by, the agreement if you have not clicked the box marked “I decline” at or before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on June 30, 2014, and you continue your employment with the firm on or after July 1, 2014.

Naturally, we asked a PwC spokesperson what, if anything, all of this had to do with the Adamov lawsuit mentioned in the email and what this means for PwC employees. "Going forward as of July 1st, it will be the norm for most staff members at PwC that those legal matters that can be arbitrated, will be. This is a noncontroversial decision, and other professional services firms as well as other employers around the country have made the same decision in recent years," she said.

As a refresher, Adamov v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is a federal overtime lawsuit filed last year, while Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is still getting hammered out in California courts. Adamov is on hold until Campbell figures things out, which will likely be some time in 2025 at this rate.

If you read the email carefully, declining arbitration won't get you fired but if you decide to do nothing at all, you'll not only not be fired but basically say yes to arbitration. But, as PwC said, this is totally noncontroversial so go ahead and sign your right to class action away.

We've reached out to a lawyer-ly pal to weigh in on what this means from the all-important lawyer-ly perspective but in the meantime, let's talk it out in the comments.

UPDATE: We spoke to Joshua A Glikin, an attorney at business and technology law firm Bowie & Jenson, LLC, to get his thoughts on the email:

"There are two things that give me concern from an employee's side. [PwC is] effectively saying silence is acceptance; the courts generally do not agree. An assertion that a lack of response is equivalent to an affirmative response is generally a losing argument in U.S. courts. Second, PwC is asking employees to enter into a contract, but any contract requires consideration. PwC is not offering to give up or do anything in exchange for an employee’s apparent promise to arbitrate future claims; there is no payment of money, no promise of future employment, nor any other consideration offered in exchange for an employee’s agreement to arbitrate."

You all remember that part from REG, right? Without seeing the attachment that accompanied today's email (hint hint if anyone cares to send it to us), we can't be 100% sure no consideration exists but based solely on this email, PwC is extending no consideration in exchange for requesting employees enter into an arbitration contract. You can't get fired either way, so what's the firm offering you in exchange for your agreement? Don't worry, you have plenty of time to think that over.