KPMG Gender Discrimination Case
Kassman, et al., v. KPMG LLP
On February 7, 2013, Judge Furman of the Southern District of New York handed Defendant KPMG (a Big Four accounting firm whose parent company reported global revenues of $20.63 billion in 2010) a resounding defeat in its attempts to avoid litigation of a class-wide gender discrimination claims. Sanford Heisler, LLP represents a class of female professionals in a $400 million gender discrimination class action against KPMG, where women comprise about half of all employees but only 18% of Partners. The five Named Plaintiffs allege that KPMG engages in systemic discrimination against its female Professionals, including but not limited to female Associates, Senior Associates, Managers, Senior Managers and Managing Directors. The individual Plaintiffs and the class are represented by Lead Counsel Katherine Kimpel along with attorneys Katherine Lamm and Kate Mueting, all of Sanford Heisler, LLP, in Washington, D.C.
Class Representative Donna Kassman, a former Senior Manager, filed the original Complaint on June 2, 2011, to remedy KPMG’s systemic discrimination in pay and promotion, discrimination based on pregnancy, and chronic failure to properly investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment. Despite being touted by the Company as a role model for other working mothers, Ms. Kassman hit a glass ceiling after having children. KPMG abruptly slashed her base salary by $20,000 while she was on maternity leave, claiming she did not need the money because she “ha[d] a nice engagement ring.” After languishing in a Senior Manager position for a decade, Ms, Kassman was finally “put up” for promotion, only to be removed from the list of candidates based on unfounded, gender-biased comments from her male colleagues.
The Second Amended Complaint, filed on September 29, 2011, exposes rampant gender discrimination at KPMG across the country, with Named Plaintiffs hailing from New York, Georgia and California. For example, a Senior Associate in the Atlanta, Georgia office was terminated on her very first day back from maternity leave. Upon firing her, a Partner justified the firing, commenting that she “should be fine without a job” because her husband “ma[de] a lot of money.” Another Senior Manager in the New York office was repeatedly passed over for promotion because she did not “schmooze” enough at the Company happy hours – where male Partners were known to harass female employees by doing “body shots” off them and engaging in other inappropriate behavior.
“KPMG pays nothing more than lip service to its commitment to female employees and working mothers,” said Ms. Kimpel. “In reality, KPMG discriminates as if we were permanently stuck in the 1950s, where heavy drinking and sexual innuendo is just a part of the game. In addition, the male leadership at KPMG expects women to perform, but they aren’t willing to pay or promote. The Complaint also chronicles KPMG’s failure to adequately investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination when they are brought to the attention of Human Resources and other reporting channels.