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Plaintiff Who Filed Gender Discrimination Suit Responds to KPMG’s Women’s Leadership Campaign

Back in 2011, a former KPMG Senior Manager named Donna Kassman filed a $350 million class action lawsuit against the firm alleging "relentless gender discrimination and harassment." In addition, she claimed that despite speaking up, "the Company had no interest in remedying the situation."

Since the story broke, we've followed developments including that 9,000 women received court-ordered notices about opting into the class, with more than 900 women had joining as of January. Sanford Heisler Kimpel, the law firm representing Ms. Kassman and the class, now claims that nearly 1,300 women are part of the class action.

KPMG (disclosure: I used to work there!) has maintained that the suit is without merit. 

More recently, you may have seen KPMG's new campaign — its first in a decade, apparently — focusing on women's leadership. It stars hat-bearers Stacy Lewis and Phil Mickelson and "promote[s] the inaugural KPMG Women's PGA Championship as well as the KPMG Women's Leadership Summit." Take a gander:

In response to the campaign, Ms. Kassman sent a letter to Stacy Lewis and the other members of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Advisory Counsel because she is "confident you didn’t get the whole story." 

Did KPMG tell you that it is facing a massive gender discrimination case in federal court? Did KPMG tell you that despite its best efforts over the past four years to kill the case, almost 1,300 women – both current and former employees – have joined to take a stand against KPMG’s unfair pay practices?

She recounts how she loved working at the firm and "envisioned spending my entire career at KPMG" and the treatment she received.

The problems started when, despite my hard work and consistent results, KPMG slashed my salary by $20,000 while I was on maternity leave. When I attempted to address my unfair pay, my male supervisor dismissed me, commenting that I didn’t need the money because I “had a nice engagement ring.” KPMG couldn’t have been more wrong. My husband and I had just bought a new house, and losing that much salary put a real strain on our family. Even scarier was my belief that – like the stories others had told me – my pregnancy meant that KPMG might fire me any second.

Unfortunately, my experience with unfair pay and discriminatory treatment wasn’t isolated to those few dramatic and horrible events. They continued and, in fact, escalated as my family grew. Sadder yet, I wasn’t the only one who KPMG treated this way. KPMG paid me and my female colleagues less than men for the same work. How sure am I of this? Nationwide statistical evidence shows that at KPMG men and women doing the same job, in the same location, for the same amount of time, with the same amount of experience and the same level of education, are paid differently. According to expert analysis, the probability that KPMG’s compensation is gender neutral is less than one in one hundred million.

While I once believed that through hard work and excellent performance, I could rise ­up through the ranks at KPMG, I now know that wasn’t true for me or the thousands of other women like me who ran into a very real glass ceiling at the firm. KPMG knew about my problems with gender discrimination because I told them over and over. I learned that they knew about others’ problems as well, but that they didn’t care enough to do anything. When I sought help from KPMG’s Leadership, a Principal­-in-­Charge of the Ethics and Compliance Department told me “this is three men ganging up on a woman. We’ve had it before.” Another KPMG Partner admitted that the male subordinate had a “problem working with women.”

Ms. Kassman concludes the letter by admitting, "There are […] good things about KPMG and good things happening there," but that the way the firm "as a whole — treats women is not one of them."

You can read the whole thing here and recent court filings about the case here and here. An email to a KPMG spokesman has not been returned.

KPMG's First Ad Campaign in a Decade Features Golf Stars Stacy Lewis, Phil Mickelson [AdWeek]