Work-life balance: KPMG sued in Canada
KPMG is being sued in a proposed class action lawsuit filed the Friday (paywall) before the long Labour Day weekend, citing employees were forced to work unpaid overtime hours.
The lawsuit alleges KPMG employees routinely work as many as 90 hours a week to complete assignments on behalf of clients. The firm allegedly requires employees to “eat their time” if they spend more hours on an assignment than KPMG can recover from the client.
First of all, the fact they were forced to “eat their time” is neither here nor there. What does it matter if the hours they work get billed to the client in the end? They’re being paid to do the work, and they’re being paid by the firm.
Maybe my loyalty to the profession is clouding my judgment, but I can’t seem to muster much sympathy. The situation is the same at most accounting firms, and if employees don’t like it they can work elsewhere. The job market for accounting professionals to red hot these days.
The industry is just one where you have to pay your dues, and during busy times the workload is heavy. In a way it helps separate the wheat from the chaff, as those who don’t like it (or can’t hack it) move on after they get their designation. But this lawsuit is about employees who aren’t working towards the CA designation:
The lawsuit outlines the case of Alison Corless, who worked at KPMG in Toronto from 2000 to 2004. According to the suit, Ms. Corless was hired as an assistant to a specialist, and her work was supposed to consist largely of data entry. Her starting salary was $30,000.
After joining the firm, Ms. Corless was almost immediately required to compile complex corporate tax returns, even though she had no experience in that area and no university degree, the suit alleges. During tax season, Ms. Corless allegedly had to work as many as 16 hours a day and well over 50 hours a week.
When Ms. Corless approached managers about being paid for overtime, she was allegedly told she was not entitled to overtime because it was included in her salary. When she left KPMG, her salary was $56,000, according to the suit.
Apparently the starting salary was acceptable to Ms. Corless at the time, but perhaps she believed overtime was going to be paid. Shouldn’t she have clarified that before starting (or at least at the beginning of her work there)? I’m almost certain it was clarified, and the firm probably has her acceptance of the conditions of her employment on file.
Note that she also received valuable training in complex tax return preparation, which is as in-demand a skill as you can get. And for anyone who’s ever prepared a corporate tax return, a lot of it is data entry!
Accounting firms work very hard to attract and retain hard working employees, and they are routinely lauded for being great employers. KPMG was just one of four firms that made Canada’s Top 100 Employers list in 2007! Three of the Big Four (Deloitte being the odd one out) and a smaller firm, Mintz & Partners are on the list.
I don’t know what prompted me to do so, but I ended up Googling Ms. Corless. Turns out she’s joined LinkedIn, the social networking site aimed at professionals:
So she’s moved on from her days at KPMG, and it’s good to see she has been able to parlay her experience preparing complex corporate tax returns into a job at a law firm, Juroviesky & Ricci. (She’s also now a specialist herself, after starting at KPMG as an assistant to one.) But wait a minute, that firm sounds familiar:
“The judicial winds in Ontario and in North America are pro-employee and pro-overtime, and especially in the class-action arena,” lawyer Henry Juroviesky of Juroviesky and Ricci LLP said in an interview Tuesday after his Toronto-headquartered commercial and tax law firm filed the KPMG litigation in Ontario Superior Court.
It will be interesting to see where (if anywhere) this case goes. I know I’ll be paying attention, will you?