29 Apr 2016 04:30pm

PwC accused of age discrimination in US lawsuit

PwC’s US arm has been accused of age discrimination against accounting job applicants that are 40 years of age and older

PwC faces a federal class action, with the firm being accused of “engaging in a pattern and practice” of “systematic and pervasive discrimination” against older job applicants, according to Outten & Golden and The Liu Law Firm, the law firms handling the case, with the help of the AARP Foundation Litigation, which campaigns on issues facing the over-50s in the US.

Steve Rabin, a 53-year-old certified public accountant, who was denied employment at PwC filed the 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, alleging violations of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

According to the complaint, “PwC’s culture and practice has distributed the benefits of its enormous success unequally – systematically favouring younger applicants at the expense of their older counterparts.”

The lawsuit claims that the number of workers 40 years of age and older in entry-level and lower to mid-level positions at the firm is “stunningly low” and alleges the firm’s policies and practices have the effect of “deterring would-be applicants ages 40 and older from applying and denying job opportunities to those individuals ages 40 and older who do apply."

The complaint charges that PwC intentionally refuses to hire older accounting applicants because of their age and "uses a biased recruitment tool for entry-level accountant hiring that only accepts applications from individuals currently affiliated with a university".

A spokesperson for PwC US said that Rabin’s claim is false.

“PwC's hiring practices offer equal opportunity to all applicants, and the firm devotes enormous resources to recruiting a diverse workforce. Like most employers, PwC recruits at the nation's colleges and universities, and the firm hires individuals at all experience levels and across the age spectrum," the spokesperson added.

According to the class action, the firm 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.

The complaint also accuses PwC of having a “strong corporate preference for attracting Millennial workers” and says the firm maintains a mandatory retirement age of 60 for partners, which may contribute to the alleged discrimination in hiring.

“The class and collective action alleges that older applicants are systematically denied employment and are deterred from applying to work at PwC because of the company’s unlawful preference for younger workers,” Jahan C. Sagafi, of Outten & Golden LLP’s San Francisco office, said.

“There is no justification for hiring based on unfounded age stereotypes,” William Alvarado Rivera, senior vice president for litigation at the AARP Foundation, said.

Rabin added, “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.”

Sinead Moore


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