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November 29, 2018

KPMG faces potential class action suit over gender discrimination

By Joe Pickard

Female plaintiffs employed by KPMG US have appealed to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to be granted class status in an equal pay and promotion lawsuit against the firm.

The plaintiffs allege KPMG US practices ‘intentional discrimination against women’ which is in violation of New York law.

Lead plaintiffs Donna Kassman, Tina Butler, Cheryl Charity, Heather Inman, Nancy Jones, and Carol Murray are attempting to gain class status for 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.

The court report stated that over 140 internal complaints to HR, as well as declarations from the plaintiffs and class members, describe ‘a culture rife with gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation’.

It was found in firm documents that KPMG senior management was ‘well aware of the adverse impact on women, but did nothing to fix it’.

The plaintiffs offered evidence from Alexander Vekker, who is current president of Vekker Consulting and has a doctorate in economics with a concentration labour economics. Vekker asserted that class members are paid and promoted less than their male counterparts to a ‘statistically significant degree’.

A chart in the court report, which is based on KPMG’s data for 2016, showed that although women made up almost half (45.12%) of employees at associate level, they represented just under a fifth (19.4%) of employees at partner level.

It was noted that KPMG does not publish job vacancies in advance of making promotion decisions and employees are not informed whether they are eligible or what they need to do to be promoted.

In a report which reviewed KPMG’s policies, Caren Goldberg said: “KPMG’s promotion practices contain numerous flaws and create a predictable method through which inconsistent outcomes and bias are exacerbated.”

The International Accounting Bulletin has approached KPMG for comment.

This is not the first time in 2018 one of the US firms from the Big Four has been in the spotlight over its treatment of female workers. In October, A former EY partner complained to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over numerous instances of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.

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