A federal trial court has formally denied a request by the plaintiffs for class certification in a case filed more than seven years ago on behalf of 10,000 women nationwide accusing KPMG of discriminating against them in pay and promotions in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) and the Equal Pay Act (EPA).

Citing the landmark 2011 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, Judge Lorna Schofield of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in Kassman v. KPMG LLP, No. 1:11-cv-03743 (S.D.N.Y. November 30, 2018), that the plaintiffs were unable to point to a specific employment practice causing individual pay and promotion disparities that was common to the class as a whole.

Pointing out that “Dukes makes it extremely difficult for a gender discrimination suit to proceed as a class action when the discriminatory treatment was the product of local supervisors exercising their discretion in awarding pay and promotions,” Judge Schofield found that was precisely the circumstance here.

Because federal trial court class certification rulings are not subject to automatic appeal, they tend to be more legally significant than trial court rulings on the merits. The court’s ruling in this case is especially noteworthy because it reinforces the continued importance of Dukes in cases challenging decentralized decisions over which individual managers have considerable discretion. It is a good reminder to companies seeking to mitigate class action risk of the need to carefully monitor their employment practices to ensure they are not being applied in a way that could trigger systemic discrimination claims.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.