More than 1,000 former and current KPMG female employees have joined a pay discrimination class-action suit against the firm.

Notices went out last October about the suit to approximately 9,000 of the firm’s former and current women employees (see KPMG Female Employees Receive Notices about Gender Discrimination Suit). They were given 120 days to respond and there is a week left in the opt-in period, according to the law firm that filed the suit, Sanford Heisler Kimpel LLP in Washington, D.C.

Of the more than 1,000 women who have joined the pay discrimination class action against KPMG, over 17 percent are current employees.

A former KPMG senior manager, Donna Kassman, filed suit against the Big Four firm in 2011, claiming she was repeatedly denied promotion after returning from maternity leave (see KPMG Sued for Gender Discrimination). Four other female employees—Linda O’Donnell, Sparkle Patterson, Jeanette Potter and Ashwini Vasudeva—later joined the $400 million class-action lawsuit, and now the number is in excess of 1,000. Women comprise approximately half of KPMG’s employees, according to the plaintiffs, but only 18 percent are partners.

"In our experience, having over a thousand women join is a remarkable response,” said Sanford Heisler Kimpel managing partner Katherine M. Kimpel in a statement. “The Big Four accounting field is filled with individuals who, even more than the average American, find suing an employer particularly scary, perhaps because of all the hard work and long hours they have dedicated to their careers. That more than a thousand women have nonetheless taken the step to stand up against KPMG's discriminatory practices is a testament not only to their courage but also to how deeply rooted the problems at KPMG are. I have no doubt that many more women will be joining us between now and the January 31, 2015 deadline.”

KPMG pointed out that the number of women who have joined the suit is still relatively low. “Two facts about the claims made by the plaintiff speak louder than any others: almost 90 percent of those eligible to have joined this lawsuit chose not to do so; and almost 85 percent of the small number that did join are not current KPMG employees,” said KPMG spokesman Manuel Goncalves. “That is because the allegations that have been made are without merit, which KPMG confirmed after thoroughly and repeatedly reviewing the matter.

“KPMG has long been recognized as a great place to work and build a career, as well as a leader in fostering a diverse and inclusive culture,” he added. “The firm is deeply committed to the career advancement of women and confronting the challenges women too often face in the workplace, and takes very seriously any concern about discrimination or unfair treatment. We could not be more proud of our culture and the fact that KPMG is replete with and led by many talented and successful women.”

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