Hundreds Accuse Jewelry Firm of Sexual Harassment

Hundreds Accuse Jewelry Firm of Sexual Harassment

USA

Like they do at many US companies that require arbitration as a condition of employment, Sterling Jewelers employees waive the right to bring their employers to public court when they sign their contracts, leaving the process up to the secretive private arbitration system.

Employees at Kay jewellers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry - whose 1,500-some stores dot malls and shopping centers across the United States - say that even the highest level of corporate management, including the CEO of the multibillion-dollar conglomerate that owns the two stores, contributed to the atmosphere.

Sanya Douglas, a Kay employee in NY from 2003 to 2008, said in one sworn statement a supervisor referred to having sex with management "going to the big stage", adding "If you didn't do what he wanted with him, you wouldn't get your (preferred) store or raise".

Heather Ballou, a former manager for Kay Jewelers - a subsidiary of Sterling Jewelers, Inc. - is part of a class action lawsuit claiming sexual discrimination against her former employer.

It's critical to understand that an arbitration claim was brought against Sterling in 2008 that alleged gender discrimination in pay and promotion.

The class-action case includes 69,000 current and former females employees of Sterling.

A male employee also threatened to have her fired, she claims. The Post report sent its stock down from around $72 to $65.

Numerous complainants allege that annual managers meetings were a "sex-fest" where women were routinely grabbed and harassed. She tells the Post that she consented, but only after feeling that she was "backed into a corner". She was days away from receiving a $30,000 commission-based bonus, the Post reports.

Bouffard added the sexual harassment and discrimination claims "involve a very small number of individuals" whose filed claims were attempting "to paint a negative and distorted picture of the company".

A Sterling spokesman told The Post that company officials "have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture".

WaPo reported that the former and current employees are seeking punitive damages and years of back pay, but that no estimate of the potential damages has been provided. A class hearing, where the witnesses will be called to testify, is scheduled for next year, the Post reports.

  • Jack Replman