Labor & Employment Law Daily PwC willing to pay $11.625M to end age discrimination class and collective action
Friday, March 6, 2020

PwC willing to pay $11.625M to end age discrimination class and collective action

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

PwC has also agreed to make programmatic recruiting changes geared toward further attracting qualified older applicants for entry-level positions.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) will pay $11.625 million to resolve class and collective claims that it failed to hire individuals into Associate, Senior Associate, and Experienced Associate positions in the Tax and Assurance lines of service because they were over 40 years old, in violation of the ADEA and of California and Michigan antidiscrimination laws. PwC denies having engaged in any unlawful discrimination in the settlement that the company announced together with AARP Foundation and Outten & Golden LLP, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Policy and practice of age discrimination. The disparate impact ADEA lawsuit was brought by individuals who had applied for jobs with PwC but were denied. They alleged the company engages “in an intentional, companywide, and systemic policy, pattern, and/or practice of discrimination against applicants ages 40 and older,” “maintains hiring policies and practices for giving preference to younger employees that result in the disproportionate employment of younger applicants,” and that these practices adversely impact older job applicants.

One of the named plaintiffs, who started applying for jobs with the company when he was 50, was not hired despite having graduated with distinction from an MBA program with an accounting concentration, holding multiple CPA licenses, and having provided accounting services for over 10 years. He alleged he was questioned about his ability to “fit in” with younger employees and was stymied in the application process by the way in which jobs were posted. Positions were listed on a “campus” recruiting website, and he was unable to apply without a college email or mailing address.

Another named plaintiff, who was between 45 and 48 when he applied for jobs with the employer, describe similar failed efforts to get hired, in spite of his qualifications, and the impression he was given that the employer “maintains a culture of favoring younger applicants.”

In March 2019, the district court granted conditional certification of the collective action.

Recruiting procedures. In addition to the monetary relief, PwC has also agreed to enhance certain of its recruiting procedures geared toward further attracting qualified older applicants for entry-level jobs. PwC noted that it is taking steps to further enhance the ability of alumni to apply to positions available through on-campus recruiting programs, which promotes an age-diverse applicant pool.

Notably, under the proposal, for covered positions, PwC has also agreed not to ask pre-offer applicants who have graduated for their graduation date, and to not impose eligibility limits that are based on graduation year (unless it is in the future) or age.

“PwC is proud to affirm its commitment to identify and hire older workers,” said PwC’s Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer, Shannon Schuyler. “The commitments in this settlement will help PwC remain one of the most sought-after employers in the country. Our workforce represents the diversity of perspective, life experiences, and backgrounds, and welcomes talented workers across the age spectrum.”

More about the monetary award. Under the proposal, the $11,625,000 settlement amount will cover payments to claimants, including all applicable taxes. From the settlement amount will be deducted class counsel fees of up to 40 percent and actual litigation costs and expenses up to $295,000. Service awards of $20,000 for each of the two plaintiffs, plus $2,000 for each of the 28 declarants who agree to sign general releases (for a total of up to $96,000) will also be deducted. Settlement administration costs, not to exceed $105,330 absent unforeseen circumstances and court approval, and the costs of the implementation expert up to $20,000, and a $300,000 reserve fund to compensate claimants for any alleged and valid age discrimination claims based on PwC’s failure to hire them into a covered position to which they apply during the 15-month window following finality of the agreement, will also come out of the settlement fund.

The case, Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, is No. 16-cv-02276-JST.

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