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Arbitration documents detail sexual harassment, discrimination allegations against jewelry co.

Many of our readers will be familiar with Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry. These companies have a robust presence across the United States. Though the stores target a slightly different clientele, they both share the same parent company, Sterling Jewelers, which company has been accused of numerous sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

The claims, which are detailed in documents from an ongoing arbitration case filed in 2008, show something of the dark underside of the jewelry sales industry. The arbitration case was initially filed by over a dozen women, but eventually came to include 69,000 current and former female employees of Sterling as a class-action case. 

Among the allegations detailed in the arbitration documents are that female employees were routinely paid less than male counterparts, subjected to demeaning treatment on the job and at annual manager meetings by male management, pressured to provide sexual favors to management in exchange for better pay and promotions, and subjected to retaliation if they refused or reported abuse. The allegations go all the way to the top, implicating Mark Light, CEO of Sterling’s parent company Signet Jewelers.

As is to be expected, Sterling has tried to minimize the claims, stating that the allegations involve a “very small number of individuals” and that they do not reflect the company’s culture. The company also maintains its current framework for handling sexual harassment and discrimination is adequate. Notably, though, the arbitrator handling the case has said that Sterling has largely declined to refute the evidence against them.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this case, as well as the topics of workplace discrimination and arbitration of employment disputes. 

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