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Judge to lawyers: Enough ‘pettifoggery and piffle!’

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Federal appeals court Judge Douglas Ginsburg was not amused when attorneys for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) asked to have District of Columbia laws applied to a New York case. In fact, he was so perturbed, he heartily rebuked the lawyers with a stinging Victorianism.

Now PricewaterhouseCoopers faces charges that its policy of requiring employees to retire at age 60 violates federal and New York state law.

The case involves two employees, Harold Schuler and C. Westbrook Murphy, who were hired in their 40s. Both were denied promotion to partner. Schuler and Murphy claim they didn’t make partner because they were too close to the accounting and consulting firm’s mandatory retirement age.

Their case, originally filed in the District of Columbia, was dismissed when the court found PwC had not violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act or any District of Columbia law.

But Schuler and Murphy’s attorneys then alleged that the actual decision was made at PwC’s headquarters in New York. Therefore, they said, the employer’s actions should be measured against New York State’s broader anti-discrimination law. PwC countered with a tortured argument that Ginsburg should apply the D.C. court’s reason for dismissal to the New York case.

“To which we say: Pettifoggery and piffle!” Ginsburg wrote.

Now the case will return to a lower court to determine whether it will be adjudicated under New York law.

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