PwC Applicants' Age Bias Collective Action Gets Green Light

Law360 - Danielle Nichole Smith

A California federal judge has granted conditional collective action status to unsuccessful job applicants accusing PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP of bias against older candidates, saying the problems that led him to refuse to certify the collective in July had been fixed.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar granted lead plaintiffs Steve Rabin and John Chapman's bid for conditional collective action certification on Friday, saying the plaintiffs had adequately narrowed the scope of the group they wanted to represent and noting that PwC would still have another chance to challenge it. Rabin and Chapman alleged that PwC denied them jobs they were qualified for because of their age and systemically favored younger applicants.

"Should it become clear that plaintiffs' proposed definition is indeed unworkable, as PwC alleges, the two-step collective certification process provides a ready solution: PwC may move to decertify the class," Judge Tigar wrote.

PwC had argued in September that the newly proposed collective was no more viable than the one Judge Tigar rejected earlier that summer. The judge had denied the applicants certification in July, finding that their proposed collective wrongly included unqualified applicants who weren't similarly situated to the plaintiffs leading the case.

Though the proposed collective had been narrowed to exclude unqualified applicants, Rabin and Chapman didn't illustrate how to discern who was qualified or not, PwC said. The collective definition would result in individualized factual disputes that would likely number in the thousands, the company contended.

But Judge Tigar said in his order that the proposed collective members were similarly situated enough for conditional certification under the standard established in the Ninth Circuit's 2018 decision in Campbell v. City of Los Angeles . The members had similar legal issues and facts relating to their Age Discrimination in Employment Act claims, the judge said.

"We've presented very powerful evidence of systemic discrimination, and we are looking forward to litigating the claims," Jahan C. Sagafi, an attorney for the applicants, told Law360 on Monday.

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The applicants are represented by Jahan C. Sagafi, Laura Iris Mattes, Adam T. Klein, Melissa L. Stewart, Daniel Stromberg and Lucy B. Bansal of Outten & Golden LLP, and Daniel Kohrman, Laurie McCann and Dara Smith of AARP Foundation Litigation.

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