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April 15, 2019

Class action status granted for suit against PwC for alleged age discrimination

By Joe Pickard

A US court has granted class action status in a suit against PwC for allegedly discriminating against age in its recruitment policies.

The United States District Court Northern District of California has granted class action status for Steve Rabin and John Chapman’s (the plaintiffs) allegations that PwC US ‘maintain hiring policies and practices for giving preference to younger employees that result in the disproportionate employment of younger applicants’.

The court had previously denied class action but after Rabin and Chapman revised the collective definition the court has allowed for collective certification.

Rabin attempted to gain an associate position at PwC from 2013 to 2016, beginning when he was 50 years old. He said that his education and work experience, which included holding a CPA license in two states and providing accounting services for ten years, more than qualified him for an associate position at PwC.

Based on a PwC manager’s interview questions about Rabin’s ability to ‘fit in’ with younger employees and being unable to a apply for a position listed on PwC ‘campus’ recruiting website without a college email or mailing address, Rabin believes that PwC discriminated based on his age in failing to hire him. Chapman also described similar experiences.

The plaintiffs previously tried to get class action for ‘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 court denied this as Rabin and Chapman were not substantially similar to either unqualified applicants or deterred applicants, two groups that fell within their original collective definition proposal.

As their revised proposal excluded those which were unqualified and deterred applicants, the court granted class action status.

PwC oppose the motion, arguing that the plaintiffs have failed to offer ‘some reliable and verifiable way to identify who ‘met the minimum qualifications’’.

A large part of networks’ recruitment strategy is to work with university’s and higher education institutes to provide graduate programmes for potential employees. Speaking to a number of firms, one of the greatest challenges they face at the moment is the so-called war for talent, which makes it difficult to recruit and retain the best talent.

If this case brought against them is successful, it could have major repercussions on the recruitment strategy of firms.

IAB has contacted PwC US for comment and will update this article as and when comment is received.

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