Kay Jewelers and its parent company, Sterling Jewelers, faces a class-action lawsuit from thousands of former and current employees, who accuse the company of fostering “rampant sexual harassment and discrimination,” according to a Washington Post story on Monday.
Women at the company have stepped forward to report that they “were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses” during the late 1990s and 2000s. Around twenty of those women filed the initial arbitration nearly ten years ago.
Not all members of the class action suit are alleging sexual impropriety. There are a number of additional accusations, including widespread reports of wage violations. As the claimants report, women earned significantly less pay than male counterparts and were often “passed over for promotions given to less experienced male colleagues.”
This information hasn’t been made public until now because the workers’ legal team was only given permission to release the information this past week. The case has not yet been settled and remains in arbitration (i.e. privately hashed out) and it’s unclear why the dispute has taken so many years to settle.
Sanya Douglas, who worked as a Kay salesperson and manager in New York for 5 years (2003 – 2008), told reporters that a manager referred to the culture where male leaders pressured women into sexual favors to advance their careers as “going to the big stage.”
“If you didn’t do what he wanted with him,” she said in the 2012 sworn statement, “you wouldn’t get your [preferred] store or raise.”
Sterling Jewelers has aggressively denied the allegations, saying they believe “the story published by the Washington Post is patently misleading, as the referenced arbitration matter contains no legal claims of sexual harassment. We are currently seeking to have the Post correct this inaccurate story.”
They also argued that they’ve “created strong career opportunities for many thousands of women working at our stores nationwide” and that the company takes allegations of sexual harassment and employment discrimination “very seriously.”
Sterling also indicated that the allegations “involve a very small number of individuals” and that “they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture.”