If you ever purchased jewelry in a major mall, odds are the store was operated by Sterling Jewelers Inc. or its parent company, Signet. Many of the most familiar names in the jewelry business are owned by Sterling, and it is the largest jewelry retailer in the nation.
A female employee’s discrimination case over promotion and pay has snowballed after lawyers for the plaintiff began interviewing other female Sterling employees. The case has been winding its way through the court system for more than 14 years.
A woman who had worked at a Tampa, Florida jewelry store as an assistant manager for the prior four years, and for Sterling for 14 years, went to an employment lawyer in 2005 with allegations of gender discrimination. She claimed she had been passed over for promotions, and the men promoted were less experienced. She had access to payroll records for her store, and saw that men made 25 percent more than women for the same positions. After her attorney realized the issue was not with the woman’s store, but was indicative of a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination within Sterling, a class action lawsuit was filed. Nearly 70,000 women were included in the lawsuit.
Scores of women who had worked at Sterling from the 1980s to the 2000s reported that men felt free to engage in sexually abusive behavior. Since many jewelry buyers are men, Sterling hired attractive women as salespeople. Women told stories of male managers making sexual favors part of any promotion. Others told of managers exposing themselves to female employees and a pervasive culture of sex discrimination and harassment.
Sterling employees must sign arbitration agreements upon joining the company. These arbitration agreements are the reason the case has dragged on for so long. That meant the employees had to take their complaints through a complicated system, which in Sterling’s case was known as Resolve. All hearings are private, and mediators or investigators are paid for by Sterling. Any settlements in arbitration are also private, requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. Until recently, the depth of the sexual harassment issue at Sterling and the details about its corporate culture were not known.
If you or a loved one experienced sexual discrimination in the workplace, you need the services of the experienced Eatontown employment lawyers at Fox & Melofchik, L.L.C. For a free initial consultation, call us at 732-493-9400 or complete our online form today. Located in Eatontown, New Jersey, we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including Monmouth County, Ocean County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Asbury Park, Neptune, Long Branch, Keansburg, Ocean Township, Eatontown, Red Bank, Middletown, Colts Neck, Deal, Freehold, Holmdel, Jackson, Little Silver, Marlboro, and Rumson.