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PricewaterhouseCoopers age bias lawsuit revived


NEW YORK (Reuters)—A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit accusing PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. of age bias for refusing to consider two employees who were near the accounting firm's retirement age for partnership.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday said a federal district court erred in dismissing claims brought under New York's human rights law, while agreeing that claims under federal age discrimination and Washington D.C. human rights laws were properly dismissed.

According to the opinion, PricewaterhouseCoopers requires its more than 2,000 partners in the United States to retire when they reach age 60, or in unusual cases age 62.

The plaintiffs, Harold Schuler and C. Westbrook Murphy, said they were hired for the firm's regulatory and advisory services practice group in 1988 and 1989 respectively, when they were 44 and 49.

Each said PricewaterhouseCoopers refused to consider them for promotion to partner more than a decade later because of their ages. They sued, and their cases were consolidated.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Judge Douglas Ginsburg said a 2008 D.C. Circuit ruling involving Mr. Schuler entitled the plaintiffs to a "reasonable inference" that PricewaterhouseCoopers' decisions not to promote them were made in New York, where the firm is based.

"PwC says (the earlier case) 'does not control' because it addressed only PwC's adoption and maintenance of a discriminatory policy, not the 'discrete decision' not to admit (Schuler) to partnership,'" Judge Ginsburg wrote. "To which we say: Pettifoggery and piffle!"

The D.C. Circuit did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' claims. It sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

David Nestor, a PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman, declined to comment on the New York claims and said the firm was pleased the remaining claims were dismissed.

Joshua Rose, a lawyer representing Mr. Schuler, said he was pleased with the ruling and that "the district court will now have an opportunity to rule on the merits."

Mr. Murphy's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.