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Accounting firm internal recruiters say "FEMALE ONLY CANDIDATES"---is this legal?

Chicago, IL |

My husband works for a Big Four accounting firm. He's considered senior management, although not a partner/owner. On many weekly management phone calls (that my husband is included on, also includes various partners, internal recruiters & HR staff), the HR lead openly says "FEMALE ONLY CANDIDATES" for various upper management positions, including partnerships.

This Big Four already has more then 50% women employed among their 40,000 worldwide employees (they publish stats yearly). They are women friendly, accommodate working mothers with flextime, etc. There are also several female partners within this particular business line.

How can this be legal---verbalizing openly if you have any qualified connections, please have them apply but "FEMALE ONLY"?

Thanks in advance.

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Attorney answers 4


This is not legal, you should speak to an employment lawyer.

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This MAY be legal -- not enough facts (that is, relevant facts) are provided to make the determination. Whether your husband's firm has a right to engage in affirmative action for this position does not depend on the collective stats for the "Big Four." The Big 4 is not an entity that is evaluated for EEO purposes or subject to suit. Each company stands or falls on its own and each has its own employment issues. Your husband's firm may have rights and reasons for engaging in affirmative action and those should be disclosed to any interested 9affected) person upon request to HR.

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I don't understand this response. I took the time to provide relevant details, including the current compositon of the company. If there were a large disparity of women in the company, I wouldn't think it's odd they were looking to hire women, but that is not the case here so I don't see who affirmative action comes into play. The last time I checked, any company with more then 15 employees has to follow Federal Law regarding employment hiring practices and discrimination, which means males cannot be passed over for a female (both doing the same job; same qualifications; same work history; etc). This is not a job title where the company can show the job needs to be done by a woman so there is no rationale. And the Big 4 can't be sued for employement law violations? This is news to me.


Is he seeking a job but he's being excluded?

My answering this question does not form an attorney-client relationship. Always retain a qualified attorney before taking any action. My office offers free consultations.


This is typically referred to as reverse discrimination. There is pending before the US Supreme Court a reverse discrimination case. Although, one of the justices got into law school because she was a minority, and the two better students in front of her did not get in.

I would file a discrimination claim if you are being harmed by the policy.

You can also file with the EEOC since they may be looking at the employer. I just settled a case against Menards because the EEOC was focusing on its discrimination policy.

Jeff Jacobosn 331-222-9529