PricewaterhouseCoopers Faces Discrimination Suit

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Despite developing a lucrative relationship with Boeing on behalf of her employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Melissa Page filed suit last month claiming she was denied partnership by one of the world's largest public accounting firms, the Chicago Tribune reported.

With a law degree and 11 years of tax consulting experience, Page joined the firm in 2000, three years after joining the Chicago office. She claims her career was derailed by a corporate culture that kept women away from the very opportunities that led to partnership—including informal networking events, golf outings and other activities that would have given her more access to clients and company executives.

Partners at major accounting firms make upwards of $500,000 per year, the Tribune reported.

Page's suit states that while half the company's entry-level accountants are women, just 9 percent of the partners are women, the Tribune reported. She accuses PwC of systematically discriminating against women. Her attorneys are seeking class-action status believing there are potentially thousands of other women out there who may have a claim against the company, the Tribune reported.

This is one of several suits brought by women currently winding their way through the courts. Last month, a federal judge granted class-action status in a case against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that involves as many as 1.6 million women, the Tribune reported, adding that Merrill Lynch and the Smith Barney unit of Citigroup are still resolving multiple claims of sex discrimination in suits filed in the late 1990s.

"I think the risk for companies is high and getting higher," Michael Karpeles, a Chicago attorney who focuses on employment issues, told the Tribune. "It's getting higher because recent cases have emboldened employees and their lawyers to pursue these cases."

A spokesman for PricewaterhouseCoopers told the Tribune that Page's complaint is without merit and that the firm plans to vigorously defend itself.

"PwC is a recognized leader in employee diversity initiatives and takes its responsibility to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce very seriously," said spokesman Steven Silber. "With respect to Ms. Page, PwC went to great lengths to support and advance her career."

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