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PwC's Hiring Policies Favor Millennials, Class Action Says

Apr 27, 2016 / Media Coverage / Law360 — Kurt Orzeck

PricewaterhouseCoopers on Wednesday was hit with a proposed class and collective action in California federal court accusing the firm of favoring millennials with its hiring policies and discriminating against accounting job applicants who are age 40 or older.

The suit — filed by 53-year-old certified public accountant Steve Rabin — claims the firm has a "stunningly low" number of older workers in entry-level and lower- to mid-level positions. It accuses PwC of violating federal and state laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

According to Rabin, PwC mostly hires entry-level accountants through a campus recruiter, requiring them to be affiliated with a university. The firm allegedly doesn't post entry-level accountant positions on its website and doesn't offer a way for prospective applicants not currently affiliated with a college to apply for the jobs.

Plaintiffs' attorneys said in a Wednesday statement that the suit's goal is to require PwC to hire accountants based on merit alone. It also wants compensation for accountants who might have been hired were it not for PwC's allegedly discriminatory practices.

"I hope this case causes older job candidates to be evaluated based on their ability to perform the job, rather than how well they 'fit in' at a firm where the average employee age is 27," Rabin said in a Wednesday statement.

PwC has offices in 157 countries and employs more than 208,000 workers worldwide, according to court papers. But older accountant applicants have been almost completely shut out of accounting positions at the firm, according to the suit.

The firm allegedly said in a 2011 corporate responsibility summary report that the average age of its workforce was 27, and that two out of three of the workers were in their 20s and early 30s. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013 said the median age of accountants and auditors in the U.S. was about 43 years old, according to the suit.

About 35 percent of accountants and auditors nationwide are millennials, the suit said, but they comprise 80 percent of PwC's workforce, according to the complaint.

PwC focuses on attracting and maintaining millennials in its workforce and requires partners to retire by age 60, the complaint said.

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Rabin — who allegedly graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics — says he applied to become a seasonal experienced associate with PwC in October 2013, but that his application was rejected.

Rabin said he had filed charges of age discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but that 60 days have passed.

Rabin is bringing his suit on behalf of a class and collective of applicants 40 years or older who were denied employment in junior associate, associate, experienced associate, senior associate or comparable positions, and deterred from applying to work in the positions at issue.

The complaint seeks unspecified front and back pay, damages, and other relief.

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Rabin is represented by Adam T. Klein, Jahan C. Sagafi, Katrina Eiland and Julia Rabinovich of Outten & Golden LLP; Daniel B. Kohrman, Laurie A. McCann and Dara S. Smith of AARP Foundation Litigation; and Jennifer Liu of the Liu Law Firm PC.

Counsel information for PwC wasn't immediately available.

The case is Steve Rabin et al. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, case number 3:16-cv-02276, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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