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PwC Age Discrimination Class Action Settlement Approved by Court

Aug. 20, 2020, 2:12 PM

An agreement for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to pay $11.6 million to settle class action claims it discriminated against older job applicants was preliminarily approved by a federal court in California, which said the settlement appears fair and reasonable.

The plaintiffs charged that PwC maintained a biased recruiting system for entry-level accounting positions that favored younger applicants, implemented a mandatory early retirement policy, and refused to hire applicants age 40 or older for associate positions in its Tax and Assurance lines of service.

Of the $11,625,000 settlement, up to $4.95 million will go to attorneys’ fees and costs, up to $105,000 will go to settlement administration costs, and $20,000 will go to each of the two named plaintiffs.

The settlement includes a nationwide collective, as well as classes of California and Michigan applicants, with an estimated 5,000 members. Individual awards will be calculated using a point system that accounts for the claimants’ settlement class and their qualifications to work at PwC.

The global accounting and auditing firm also agreed to reform its recruiting and hiring process for older workers, including by advertising directly to older applicants, including age in its nondiscrimination policy, and not asking job seekers when they graduated from college.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted preliminary approval to the settlement Wednesday. “The risk, expense, complexity, and likely duration of further litigation” weigh in favor of approval, the court said. For example, while the plaintiffs believe their allegations have merit, they risk losing on appeal because several circuits have disagreed with this court and held that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 doesn’t permit job applicants to bring disparate impact claims, the court said.

The plaintiffs must revise their proposed notices to the class members because their procedures for objecting to or opting out of the settlement don’t conform with this district’s guidance, the court said. Specifically, individuals who wish to object or opt out shouldn’t have to provide their addresses and telephone numbers, Judge Jon S. Tigar said.

Outten & Golden LLP, Liu Law Firm P.C., and AARP Foundation Litigation represent the plaintiffs. Kirkland & Ellis LLP represents PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The case is Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, N.D. Cal., No. 4:16-cv-02276, 8/19/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Flood in Washington at bflood@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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