PwC offices in Washington. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/ ALM

A federal judge in San Francisco has certified a collective action of job applicants older than 40 years old, who claim global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers systematically weeded out older workers from consideration for entry-level positions in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California granted plaintiffs’ motion for conditional collective action certification to pursue their federal age-discrimination claims Thursday, although his ruling remains temporarily under seal.

Jahan Sagafi of Outten & Golden, who represents plaintiffs in the case, said, “We’re certainly pleased with the decision and we look forward to moving ahead in the litigation.”

Sagafi, however, declined to comment further, given that the judge’s order remains under seal.

PwC’s lawyer, Emily Nicklin of Kirkland & Ellis, forwarded a request for comment to a PwC spokesperson who declined to comment, citing the sealed decision.

Plaintiffs filed suit in 2016 claiming that the accounting firm’s workforce skews young, due to on-campus recruitment efforts and its use of recruiting tool only accessible to applicants with a college affiliation. A plaintiffs expert in the case has calculated younger candidates are more than 500 percent more likely to be hired by PwC than people over 40. PwC, meanwhile, has maintained that its hiring is purely merit-based and that, as a sought-after employer, it hires fewer than 5 percent of applicants.

In July 2018 Tigar denied an earlier collective action bid by the plaintiffs finding that their collective definition included applicants who weren’t qualified for the positions they were seeking as well as those who were. However, in that decision, the judge wrote that the plaintiffs had “adequately shown a uniform decision, policy or plan on the basis of PwC’s centralized and uniform hiring policies, and the substantial evidence of age disparities in hiring.”