Gender Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit to Proceed, Despite Dukes
Many plaintiff trial attorneys were disappointed with the outcome in the Supreme Court decision Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011). In Dukes, class certification of 1.6 million women was denied, as the court held the plaintiffs lacked the requisite requirement of commonality. The main problem was that the allegations of discrimination were based on decisions made by local supervisors. This 5-4 opinion was a blow to the plaintiffs (although they continue to fight and are awaiting another hearing on a class certification), other class action lawsuits alleging wide-spread gender discrimination are moving forward.
Plaintiffs in a recently filed gender discrimination case, Kassman v. KPMG LLP, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-cv-3743, just survived a Motion to Dismiss against international corporation KPMG, Inc., one of the largest accounting firms in the world. Named plaintiff and former senior manager, Donna Kassman, alleges that after 17 years with the company, her salary was slashed because she took maternity leave, plus other discriminatory actions. The class seeks $350 million in damages due to an alleged pattern of discrimination that prevents women from being promoted to management positions.
Although KPMG filed a Motion to Dismiss based on the Dukes case, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled for the plaintiffs, stating that Dukes “did not close the door altogether on the possibility of certifying a class based on a policy of giving discretion to lower-level supervisors.” The judge found the motion to be premature, as no discovery has even taken place. This decision should mean that discovery of documents and electronic data will commence in preparation for a hearing to certify the class.