A former female partner at Ernst and Young (EY) has sued the accounting firm for sexual harassment and retaliatory behavior, painting a picture of the firm as having a frat culture rife with misogyny.

According to the lawsuit, Karen Ward was hired by EY in 2013 to help lead real estate transactions, and quickly discovered a culture in which "sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual comments" were commonplace. She claims that her first supervisor, Michael McNamara, routinely engaged in sexually harassing conduct, including telling her she looked "really hot," that he loved her "great big round boobs," and that she had a "nice ass"; he also allegedly insisted she go to dinner and drinks with him, and texted her at 2 a.m. to meet him for drinks at a hotel bar.

McNamara allegedly called another woman at the firm Joanne "boob-bar" because he liked her "big breasts." And according to the lawsuit, he was "obsessed" with taking clients and other EY male employees to strip clubs, frequently suggesting Ward go with him to "nightclubs and titty bars."

She claims other higher-up men at the firm took part in the nightclub excursions. Some of these men bragged that they could situate their chairs so that they could see a junior female employee's vagina, "or as they disgustingly referred to it, her 'snatch.'"

Despite being promoted to a partner, she learned that she was making hundreds of thousands of dollars less than her male peers and the average male partner at the firm. Throughout 2014 and 2015, she says she complained to senior management about the sexually hostile work environment and gender discrimination. She and her team were moved to a different group which she says was retaliation for her complaints—she was told by a supervisor that the reason was because "there is an issue here because you are a woman" and "women do not succeed here [at EY]."

Ward claims she was warned by another male partner to "be careful" because "you don't want to be perceived as a bitch." In response to further complains about discrimination, James Carter, the head of the Ernst and Young Capital Advisors group, told her to "lighten up," "avoid crying wolf," and not to make "ticky-tacky" complaints.

Ward felt she was set up to fail after being moved, and had her revenue target increased for 2018, which was "significantly higher than the target given to many of her male peers who had bigger staffs and who were actually being supported by EY." She was informed in August that she would be terminated as of October 2018, despite facilitating a transaction in July netting over $5 million

“EY is led almost entirely by men who foster and promote a ‘boys’ club’ culture where women are unpaid and subjected to constant discrimination and sexual harassment," said her attorney, Michael J. Willemin. "To protect the men that engage in this conduct, EY openly retaliates against women who are courageous enough to stand up for their rights and complain. It is particularly offensive in this day and age for a company to attempt to bully and intimidate women into staying silent. Ms. Ward will not stay silent."

Ernst and Young said in a statement:

The allegations in Karen Ward’s complaint are unfounded and baseless. She was separated from EY following the Firm’s decision to shut down the small real estate investment banking advisory practice that she led for three years. Despite the Firm’s full support, Ward failed to close a single transaction in the period she led the group, and it suffered multiple years of disappointing financial results.

The decision to close this money-losing operation and separate Ward was wholly unrelated to her gender. Her allegations of harassment, retaliation and unfair pay were raised after she was informed of her separation. After an extensive independent investigation by the Latham & Watkins law firm, these allegations were found to be completely unsubstantiated. Our review also confirmed that throughout her career at EY, Ward was paid fairly and equitably for her work. EY will vigorously defend our Firm and our people in contesting these claims.

EY is committed to a diverse, inclusive and safe workplace, free of harassment or discrimination of any kind, and to full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. We promptly take steps to thoroughly investigate any claims brought to our attention and to respond based on the results of such investigations.

Earlier this year, former EY Partner Jessica Casucci filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Council after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a male partner and retaliated against for reporting the assault. She reached a confidential settlement with EY shortly after.

You can check out Ward's full lawsuit below:

Ernst & Young Harassment and Discrimination Charge by Ben Yakas on Scribd

Update: Ward's attorney, Michael J. Willemin, sent this statement in response to Ernst & Young's statement:

EY’s decision to try to trash Ms. Ward for exposing rampant discrimination and sexual harassment is appalling and just another example of a big company trying to bully a woman who reports misconduct. EY should be ashamed of itself. As stated in the EEOC Charge, Ms. Ward was responsible for bringing approximately $50mm in revenue during her tenure at EY, and the statement that she failed to close transactions is flat out false. Just one month before her termination, Ms. Ward facilitated a deal that generated $5mm in fees to EY, and a VP at EY referred to Ms. Ward’s work on the deal as ‘instrumental.’

The statement that Ms. Ward did not raise concerns of discrimination or harassment during her employment is flat out false. As the EEOC Charge alleges, she complained to anyone who would listen, including in writing. EY chose to ignore her.