A group of 10,000 or more women suing KPMG LLP for sex discrimination in pay and promotions must pursue their claims individually, a federal judge ruled.

The women failed to point to the sort of “centralized” decision-making needed to sue as a class or “collective,” the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said Nov. 30 in denying a motion for class certification.

KPMG has a national director of compensation strategies, who together with a staff of 12 designed and implemented the accounting giant’s pay and performance management systems, Judge Lorna G. Schofield said. But lead plaintiff Donna Kassman and the other KPMG women still can’t past the fact that individual pay and promotion decisions “are made by managers at the local level,” the judge said.

The lawsuit therefore really challenges the type of individual employment decisions that the U.S. Supreme Court held in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes aren’t properly pursued on a class basis because an individualized assessment of each woman’s circumstances will be required, Schofield said.

Most of the employment decisions the KPMG women base their claims on occurred after the Dukes ruling in 2011, the judge said. The firm has since intentionally utilized decentralized pay and promotions processes and has been “attentive to gender disparities and workplace misconduct,” Schofield said, denying the women’s motions to proceed as a group on their claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP represent the women. Sidley Austin LLP, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart P.C., and Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP represent KPMG.

The case is Kassman v. KPMG LLP, 2018 BL 442562, S.D.N.Y., No. 11 Civ. 3743, class certification denied 11/30/18.