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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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State-Law Allegations|Survive Age-Bias Ruling

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit revived the New York state-law claims of two PricewaterhouseCoopers employees who say they weren't promoted to partner based on their age.

PricewaterhouseCoopers tried to argue that the employees, Harold Schuler and C. Westbrook Murphy, had no valid claims under the New York Human Rights Law, though the accounting firm is headquartered in New York.

Schuler and Murphy both worked in the firm's Regulatory and Advisory Services practice group in Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Circuit noted that its 2008 decision in Schuler v. PricewaterhouseCoopers held that Schuler was entitled to a "reasonable inference" that the allegedly discriminatory policy had been adopted in New York.

"[PricewaterhouseCoopers] says Schuler '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 appeals court allowed Schuler and Murphy to sue under the New York law, but upheld the dismissal of their claims under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.

Schuler and Murphy, both in their fifties when they first sued, said the firm repeatedly failed to promote them to partner, instead promoting workers in their thirties.

Schuler's 2005 lawsuit claimed that the firm "has engaged in a pattern and practice of age discrimination in making decisions regarding assignments and promotions in violation" of anti-discrimination laws.

The district court dismissed some of their ADEA claims as time-barred, because they hadn't filed administrative charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of the allegedly discriminatory action.

Schuler and Murphy admitted that these complaints were late, but argued that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law last year by President Obama, had extended the filing deadline.

But Judge Ginsburg said the Act clearly applies to claims based on pay discrimination, not a failure to promote. And the plaintiffs failed to prove that they were passed up for partner based on their age, not their performance, Ginsburg added.

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