Ernst & Young to create $500k scholarship, pay $100k fine, after probe into sexist training program

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Ernst & Young has agreed to create a $500,000 scholarship, program, pay a $100,000 fine, and reform some of their policies after a state investigation into a sexist training program where their female employees were encouraged to follow gender stereotypes.

Ernst & Young’s Hoboken office. Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights investigation focused on a training program, which was developed by an outside vendor and which was used by Ernst & Young for more than four years between February 2015 and September 2019.

The Huffington Post reported in 2019 that the program was delivered in E&Y’s Hoboken office and instructed female employees on how to dress, including the advice “don’t flaunt your body,” and act nicely around men.

The DCR concluded that the training program violated the state law against discrimination’s prohibition on employment discrimination based on sex, gender identity and gender expression.

“We are committed to ensuring that all New Jersey residents have the opportunity to thrive in diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.

“Our Division on Civil Rights stands ready to enforce the Law Against Discrimination when employment practices reinforce gender and other stereotypes instead of promoting workplace equality.”

According to the memorandum of understanding between the DCR and E&Y, the program “included purported ‘science’ establishing ‘differences’ between male and female brains, taken almost exclusively from a widely criticized 2006 book entitled ‘The Female Brain.'”

Additionally, within a year, and continuing annually 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.

The company has also agreed to offer the course – tentatively named Ethics Respect at Work – to all new hires beginning in fiscal year 2022.

Also within a year, and continuing annually for the next three years after that, Ernst & Young will provide DCR with data on the gender make-up of its employees and executives in the U.S. and New Jersey.

To the extent available, the data is to include the number of company employees and executives who self-identify as men, women, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex.

“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,” added Chief of Strategic Initiatives and Enforcement at the Division on Civil Rights Aaron Scherzer.

“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.”

Ernst & Young has approximately 55,000 partners, principals and employees in the U.S. The company employs approximately 3,500 workers at three locations in New Jersey: Hoboken, Iselin and Secaucus.