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More on those arbitration documents involving Sterling, Signet Jewelers

In our last post, we began looking at some of the allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination contained in documents from an arbitration case against Sterling Jewelers and its parent company, Signet Jewelers. In addition to these allegations, the documents also provide details about former employees who were verbally attacked, falsely accused of misconduct, and terminated from their position after reporting abuse through a company-run hotline.

The documents contain testimony not only from women claiming to have been abused, but also from men who confirmed that there was a hostile work environment for women at Sterling. But again, Sterling has downplayed the allegations and emphasized that a small number of individuals are implicated. We aren’t in a position to judge that claim, of course, but it is difficult not to view it with serious suspicion. 

One of the unfortunate aspects of the whole thing is that the fact that Sterling’s employees are routinely required to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, and have done so since 1998. Arbitration is well-known to be favorable to companies, particularly since companies often have the ability to select the arbitrator. Also, because arbitration is private, it prevents employees from publicizing harassment and discrimination, allowing companies to avoid the full consequences of their illegal behaviors. In a future post, we’ll look a bit more at the topic of arbitration agreements, and specifically when an employee may be able to have an arbitration agreement set aside.

For those who believe they may have been subjected to sexual harassment on the job, of course, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to determine whether they have a meritorious case and to seek appropriate remedies from those responsible. 

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