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Age Bias and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Case...

Hey companies filling your employment coffers with low priced talent!  You might want to take a look at the numbers...

In case you missed it, PricewaterhouseCoopers took an Age Discrimination case in 2016.  Some legal details from the site that's inviting others to join the class action: Old school

On April 27, 2016, Steve Rabin, an older CPA who was denied employment at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”), filed an age discrimination class and collective action on behalf of himself and all other unsuccessful PwC accountant applicants aged 40 and over from 2013 to the present.  The lawsuit is titled Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Case No. 3:16-cv-02276, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The class and collective action complaint alleges that PwC has engaged in systemic discrimination against older applicants for accounting positions.  For instance, PwC primarily hires entry-level accountants through campus recruiting, does not post entry-level accountant positions on its website, and provides no ready mechanism for individuals no longer affiliated with a college to apply for these positions.  Moreover, PwC prides itself on maintaining a young workforce, focusing on attracting and maintaining “Millennials,” and requiring partners to retire by age 60.  The ageism that pervades PwC’s recruitment system and corporate culture has resulted in older accountant applicants being almost completely shut out of accounting positions at PwC. 

In February 2017, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs can pursue disparate impact claims against PwC under the ADEA.  PwC had argued that job applicants are not allowed to pursue such claims under federal law.  You can find more information about this recent ruling here.

In December 2017, the Plaintiffs asked the Court to allow all applicants covered by this case to proceed together on a collective basis rather than individually, in what is called a motion for conditional certification. A decision by the Court is likely this spring. Please check back in April of 2018 for updates.

The Goal of the Lawsuit
The class action seeks seeks to require PwC to hire accountants based on merit alone, without regard to their age, and to compensate accountants who might have been hired but for PwC’s discriminatory practices.

Yowza.  The Wall Street Journal reported some interesting numbers on Tuesday as a District Court Judge heard arguments from both sides on whether to allow 14,000 other older candidates who didn't get a job with PwC to join a class action on the same claim.  I can't share the exact text from the WSJ since it's behind a paywall, but here's a couple of tidbits:

--PwC hires less than 5% of the 300,000 applicants who apply annually in US.

--PwC hired 18% of the applicants who were under 40 to it's tax and assurance business, while only hiring 3% of the candidates over 40.

--Older workers claim that older workers are steered to part-time and seasonal roles are aren't considers for the entry level roles the company lists as full time opportunities.

For now, the judge is simply ruling on whether to allow the 14,000 older candidates who have raised their hand to join a class action suit.  An actual ruling on the matter could be years away.

Interesting legal battle.  Without question, companies like PwC prefer to hire young talent that's cheaper right out of college.  Is that bias? If so, will they be held accountable for it?

Going to be interesting to track this one.



Bo Armstrong

Yes, this is bias. This is exactly what the ADEA is about. PwC has no case arguing that "applicants are not allowed to pursue claims under federal law". That's the whole point of the law - that they CAN! It's pretty obvious from the percentages that discrimination is happening 3%:18% is a ratio of .17 or so. Courts will generally rule that if the ratio of protected class applicants hired to majority group applicants hired is less than .80, the protected class (here, everyone over 40) is in the right (but this just a rule-of-thumb).

Mihai Cojan

I can say that I encountered similar aspects by not being taken into consideration when applied to a entry level position. Even if the position doesn't require any experience or qualification I read many sorry mails that unfortunately this point in time your application has not been sent to the recruiter. I bent my knees to all of this even though I possess AAT level 3 Diploma In Accounting. Genuinely I believed that when we talk about recruitment for entry level the recruiters should take first into consideration , in their behalf, with priority candidates who already possess a qualification . In this professional way they can benefit of better prepared staff within a shorter period of time taking into account the years the candidates spent to achieve these qualifications. It obvious that should be in a democratic society a meritocratic system of recruitment if the country wants to evolve in a good direction.


That companies prefer to hire cheaper talent is not bias. But not offering those cheaper jobs to older applicants IS bias.


Good comments here - Rich summed it up very well and succinctly. It's a shame how PwC harmed itself by its own shortsightedness regarding older workers. Practices like that are what keep employment law attorneys fully employed.

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