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College Recruiting Programs May Be Age Discrimination

PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PWC”) has traditionally recruited for its entry-level programs from college campuses. That tradition has been challenged as a form of age discrimination.

Steve Rabin, a 53 year-old accountant in California, filed a class action lawsuit. He has alleged that PWC has a very small amount of older workers in entry-level positions and that PWC’s recruiting practices have created this dramatic disparity in the ages of its workers. An essential part of PWC’s recruiting practices are its campus-track program, which is limited to college students. It is alleged that PWC does not generally post entry-level positions in other places thus making it difficult for non-college students to apply for these positions. These recruiting practices have had a disparate impact on older workers.

A California district court reviewed this case and decided for the first time, that job applicants may bring claims for disparate impact under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Just in October, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals came to the directly opposite conclusion with regard to a case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. In the Eleventh Circuit case, job applicants may only bring claims for intentional discrimination.

In rejecting the interpretation of the ADEA made by the Eleventh Circuit, the district court cited precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court in a Title VII case, text from the ADEA, and the EEOC’s interpretation of the ADEA. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has not ruled on this issue. The plaintiff in the Eleventh Circuit case has appealed that case to the U.S. Supreme Court.