Jewelry Firm Faces Sex Discrimination Class-action Lawsuit

Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of Kay Jewelers and Jared, is defending against a gender discrimination class-action case involving thousands of current and former employees of the Jeweler alleging pay discrimination and hundreds alleging sexual misconduct.

Since the 1990s, female employees of the Jewelry firm have been claiming pay and promotion discrimination, arguing that men were favored for management positions over women with greater qualifications. Expert reports by the Plaintiffs state that while 73 percent of full-time employees from 2003 to 2012 were women, they filled only 60 percent of store manager jobs and only 56 percent of department manager jobs. More recently, the statements of former employees alleging sexual harassment and improprieties have been offered to show the context in which the purported pay discrimination occurred. In their statements, which were made public by Sterling on February 26, female workers claimed that they were groped and subjected to inappropriate remarks and unwanted sexual advances by their male coworkers, often their superiors. This misconduct allegedly occurred both at work and at employer-sponsored events. Several women claim they had reported sexual harassment to their managers and the HR department or using the anonymous company hotline, but had either been ignored or retaliated against for reporting the misconduct.

Part of the reason these allegations were kept under wraps for so long is because the Company has a mandatory arbitration process. Arbitration is favored by some companies because it is typically a faster and cheaper method than litigation to resolve disputes and because the proceedings are generally held in private. However, in this case, the fact that so many allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment had been kept private for so many years may point to a flaw in the arbitration system.

Learn more in this New York Times article.