Risk Management

Accountants Suing PwC for Overtime

The lawsuit against a Big 4 firm reaches the class certification stage.
Stephen TaubOctober 24, 2007

Former accounting employees are suing PricewaterhouseCoopers, alleging they were improperly denied overtime pay and other benefits when they worked for the firm.

On Wednesday, two former unlicensed accounting associates of PwC filed a motion that seeks to certify a class of all associates and senior associates employed by the accounting firm in California.

The lawsuit, which has been pending for more than a year, is the first to reach the class certification stage against one of the Big 4 accounting firms, according to Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff, which is representing the plaintiffs.

Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that under California law, only certified public accountants can properly be classified as exempt from receiving overtime.

“For years, the Big 4 accounting firms have ignored Federal and State laws mandating the payment of overtime to unlicensed accountants,” said Bill Kershaw, the KCR attorney representing the plaintiffs. “This is in stark contrast to smaller accounting firms, many of whom comply with California’s overtime law and pay overtime to their unlicensed associates as non-exempt employees.”

The law firm pointed out as an example on its website that an associate who earned $42,000 a year and worked approximately 250 hours of overtime per year may be entitled to approximately $40,000 in overtime pay over a five-year period. That amount does not include the substantial penalties and interest that would be imposed “for the willful failure to pay overtime,” the law firm said.

“PwC greatly values these employees as integral parts of our client
service teams and strictly complies with California state law
governing their compensation,” said David Nestor, a PwC spokesman. “Our associates and senior associates are
appropriately classified as exempt employees under California law and are provided with the beneficial treatment associated with their exempt status. This litigation remains in its very early stages and PwC intends to defend this lawsuit vigorously,” added Nestor.