Does the PwC age discrimination lawsuit have merit? Let’s take a look at the background of the case and then let’s investigate whether it is a good case.

Summary

On April 27 PwC was sued by a CPA named Steve Rabin. The case implies that PwC does not hire people under the age of 40 for entry level jobs such as associate or senior associates.

What is the Goal of the lawsuit?

According to PwCageCase.com, the lawsuit seeks to require PwC to hire based on merit versus concentrating their recruiting efforts solely on younger applicants.

The lawsuit covers all job applicants to PwC who are 40 years of age or older and were denied jobs as associates, experienced associates or senior associates. The lawsuit will also cover people that were discouraged from applying to PwC because of the perception that they could not obtain a job because of their age.

What does the lawsuit allege that PwC did wrong?

The lawsuit alleges that PwC has systematically discriminated against people older than 40 years of age for lower level accounting jobs. The lawsuit alleges that PwC primarily focuses on campus recruiting for college-aged individuals versus hiring older applicants for entry level jobs.
The case’s website says that PwC provides no mechanism for individuals outside of college to apply for these entry level jobs.

It is also alleges that PwC prides itself on attracting and maintaining millennials. They say that millennial recruiting and forced retirement at age 60 all point to an ageist culture at PwC. This ageist culture prevents older Americans from being able to obtain entry level positions and prevents them from succeeding at PwC.

Who is representing the Plaintiff?

The plaintiff is represented by Outten & Golden LLP, AARP Foundation Litigation and Liu Law Firm.

Outten & Golden LLP

Outten & Golden LLP is a 50 attorney law firm with offices in New York,San Francisco and Chicago. Outten & Golden has deal with employment law cases in the past. They’ve litigated employment cases against other notable financial services firms such as Goldman Sachs and Vanguard.

AARP Foundation Litigation

AARP Foundation litigation is obviously associated with AARP. AARP is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help 50 and over Americans.

The Liu Law firm

Located in San francisco the Liu Law firm focuses on employee and civil rights law.

Don’t just take my word for it — let’s do a little investigating. First let’s look at whether PwC focuses on promoting and retaining a young workforce, and then let’s look at whether they provide a mechanism for applicants older than 40 to obtain an entry level job.

It looks like PwC released a great milennial website a couple years ago. This website was obviously built more for PwC’s clients. The problem is that PwC went and promoted this website and the various studies released on HRB.org (Harvard Business Review).

In this article PwC and Bob Moritz (Former US Chairman) are quoted saying things like

Because we recruit approximately 8,000 graduates annually from college and university campuses, two-thirds of our people are in their twenties and early thirties. We’ve always employed large numbers of young people

Bob even went on to say they’ve substantially change the way they approach their workforce as a result of this millenial study. You wouldn’t do that unless your workforce was primarily younger people. See the following quote:

PwC’s leaders saw that we had to respond to this research in a radical way. So we’ve turned our traditional human-capital approach on its head, developing a system of evidence-based HR practices that address the shifting needs of our workforce.

Responding in a “radical way” to your millennial workforce leads one to believe that you do focus primarily on your younger employees.

It’s also hard to combat what this lawsuit says when more than 80% of PwC’s workforce is under the age 36 according to one 2016 bloomberg article.

Not only is PwC not hiring people for lower level positions; one could say that they just don’t hire them at all. It seems like you either need to get into PwC while you are young or you don’t get in at all.  That same bloomberg article primarily discusses how PwC is catering to their millennial workforce and trying to satisfy them so that they stay at the firm.

Based on the articles above, including one that includes quotes from PwC’s former US chairman, it seems that Pricewaterhouse mainly promotes and focuses on its young workforce as opposed to promoting a diverse-aged workforce.


Now Lets take a look at PwC’s  Career website to see if it does provide a mechanism for applicants older than 40 to apply for entry level positions.

Well take a look at that. There are only two areas that people looking for an entry level position might click. Those two areas are “Campus” section and the “Experienced” section.

Maybe the Campus section has an area where an experienced person might be encouraged to apply for an entry level position?

Based on the picture above, it appears that Irine and Ricky are most likely in their twenties than in their forties. The information on this page also primarily relates to getting a job from a college campus versus being an experienced hire looking for an entry level position. Ok, maybe the section we are looking for is in the “experienced hire” section we saw before.

These are the experienced positions that Pricewaterhousecoopers promotes on the experienced hires section of their US careers website. There are two director positions (which aren’t entry level) and one senior associate position which could be viewed more of an entry-level position. The problem with all the profiles of these jobs is that the pictures are of young people. I could definitely see how this would discourage someone over the age of 40 from applying to an associate or senior associate position at Pricewaterhousecoopers.

Even looking at the PwC US Careers twitter reveals that PwC’s recruiting efforts focus mainly on young college recruits.

See the tweets below that relate to PwC’s recent campaign around enticing recruits with student loan debt. PwC knows that many college recruits have student loans, so they have implemented a plan to help pay them down. There is no similar program for people over the age of 40 noted anywhere on the PwC US Careers twitter timeline.

If you scan their twitter, they don’t highlight experienced recruits nearly as much as they do younger and campus recruits. Especially with hashtags like #collegesigningday,#millenials, and #studentloans.


My two cents

I think the case has some merit based on the information I found above. As a former big 4 employee myself, I would rarely see any associates or senior associates below the age of 30. The whole building at a big 4 accounting firm is typically filled with young people because of the way the big 4 accounting firms recruit.

Let me know if you agree by commenting below.