BUSINESS
02/28/2017 11:43 am ET

Hundreds Of Women Accuse Major Jewelry Chain Of Widespread Sexual Harassment

Sterling Jewelers is the parent company behind Jared the Galleria of Jewelers and Kay Jewelers.

Jared the Galleria of Jewelers and Kay Jewelers’ parent company, Sterling Jewelers, is facing a class-action arbitration case from thousands of former and current employees, 250 of whom allege the company “fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination,” The Washington Post reported Monday.

Women at the company have come forward to say that they “were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses” during the late 1990s and 2000s. More than a dozen women initially filed for arbitration in 2008. 

Not all class members are alleging sexual impropriety. There are also accusations of wage violations, which argue that women were paid less than men and “passed over for promotions given to less experienced male colleagues.” 

This information hasn’t come to light until now because the employees’ attorneys were only granted permission to release the information publicly on Sunday. The case is being settled through arbitration (re: privately) and it’s not clear why it’s taken so long to settle.

Shoppers walk by a Kay Jewelers and Zales Jewelers stores at the Serramonte Mall on Feb. 19, 2014 in Daly City, California.
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Shoppers walk by a Kay Jewelers and Zales Jewelers stores at the Serramonte Mall on Feb. 19, 2014 in Daly City, California.

Sanya Douglas, a Kay sales associate and manager in New York from 2003 to 2008, told the Post that a manager had a saying for male leaders coaxing women into sexual favors to advance their careers, calling it “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.”

Heather Ballou, a former manager for Kay Jewelers -- a subsidiary of Sterling Jewelers, Inc. -- is part of a class actio
Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images
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. 

Sterling Jewelers disputed the allegations, telling The Huffington Post in a statement that 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 said that they’ve “created strong career opportunities for many thousands of women working at our stores nationwide” and they’re taking the allegations “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.”

HuffPost

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