A US judge has ruled against Donna Kassman and number of other plaintiffs who were attempting to bring about a class action suit for gender discrimination against KPMG. Kassman, the lead plaintiff, attempted to be granted class status in a case against KPMG over allegations that the firm discriminates against female employees in terms of pay and opportunities for promotion. 

If it had been granted, female associates, senior associates, managers, senior managers/directors, and managing directors employed within KPMG’s Tax and Advisory functions from October 30, 2009 through to the date of judgment would have been included in the class status.

The court report noted that KPMG has ‘utilised’ a decentralised system for determining pay and promotion which makes it harder for cases such as this to receive class certification.  As individual decisions are made at a local level it is difficult to identify a ‘specific employment practice supplying a common question sufficient to certify a class’.

While individual decisions are made by managers at local level, it is under the direction of a National Director of Compensation Strategies which designs the firm’s compensation programme and manages the firm’s performance recognition programmes.

The plaintiffs argued that this caused a pay disparity between men and women of approximately 2.8%. However, the court report highlighted that ‘any statistically significant pay disparity on account of gender would be improper’, as the national disparity in pay between men and women is 18%.

KPMG responded to the plaintiffs’ claims and said they had provided ‘no statistical evidence of anything more than sporadic and isolated within-job sex disparities in pay’.

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The judge ruled that as the plaintiffs provided ‘insufficient evidence of “some glue” holding together the reasons for the countless individual employment decisions they challenge, the motion for class certification is denied’.

Despite not being granted class status the plaintiffs can still pursue this case as individuals.

In a comment, KPMG said: “We are pleased with the court’s decision to deny Plaintiff’s motions for class and collective action certification. KPMG is committed to the advancement of women throughout the organization, and as a result is recognized as a leader for its strong commitment to supporting women in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion have long been priorities for the Firm, and as such are woven into our culture and everything we do.”