Ernst & Young LLP must pay the state $100,000 and create a $500,000 scholarship program for women and underrepresented populations in the finance and accounting industry to resolve a Division on Civil Rights investigation into its former training program.
The training program it used from February 2015 to September 2019 allegedly violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by providing many of its female employees with training based on gender stereotypes, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the DCR announced June 1.
As part of a signed Memorandum of Agreement, EY also agreed to implement a variety of policy, training and other reforms designed to ensure the company’s corporate culture and work environment comply with the LAD and do not encourage differential treatment of employees based on sex, gender identity, or gender expression.
“Training programs that perpetuate gender stereotypes and present faulty science as fact can harm employees, exacerbate gender inequities, and stigmatize employees who do not conform to gender stereotypes,” said Aaron Scherzer, DCR chief of strategic initiatives and enforcement. “The robust and forward-thinking provisions in this agreement with Ernst & Young reflect DCR’s commitment to rooting out discrimination in workplaces across New Jersey.”
EY has approximately 55,000 partners, principals and employees nationwide and employs approximately 3,500 workers in New Jersey at locations in Hoboken, Iselin and Secaucus.
The training at issue, called the Power-Presence-Purpose Training Program, or PPP, came to DCR’s attention in 2019 after news reports concerning the course described some of its content as “outdated and offensive,” according to the announcement.
The robust and forward-thinking provisions in this agreement with Ernst & Young reflect DCR’s commitment to rooting out discrimination in workplaces across New Jersey.
– Aaron Scherzer, chief of strategic initiatives and enforcement, DCR
DCR’s investigation found that some of the training materials were based on gender stereotypes and referenced gender-based “rules” that female employees were encouraged to follow; included purported “science” establishing “differences” between male and female brains, taken almost exclusively from a single, widely criticized source; included gender-based stereotypes about the skills of women and men in the workplace and expectations of their behavior; and assumed that all individuals identify as either female or male; that a person’s gender identity and expression are based on their assigned sex at birth; and that a person’s gender expression, including the way they act and dress, is in accordance with society’s expectation of that gender identity.
Within a year, and each year for three years after that, the company will require all employees who live or work in New Jersey to take a course that focuses on gender equity, implicit bias, anti-discrimination and cultural competency. New hires will take the course, tentatively named Ethics Respect at Work, beginning in fiscal year 2022.
Additionally, within a year and continuing each year for the three following years, Ernst & Young will provide DCR with data on the gender make-up of its employees and executives nationwide and statewide. The data will include, to the extent at which its available, the number of company employees and executives who self-identify as men, women, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex.
In a response to a request for comment, an Ernst & Young spokesperson told NJBIZ, “EY’s agreement with the State of New Jersey will reinforce our longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and underscores the actions we take to create a culture of belonging for all.”