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Sterling Jewelers accused of sex harassment and wage violations

High-scale jewelry stores are enjoyable places for many. People seek the perfect engagement ring to "pop the question," Engaged couples search for wedding rings. Other customers look for that perfect gift for a special someone.

The environment at jewelry stores can be quite different for those who work there - particularly if they are female. Thousands of female employees are part of a class-action case against Sterling Jewelers for sexual harassment, discrimination and wage violations, claiming working conditions for women are downright hostile.

Sterling Jewelers is the multi-billion dollar corporation behind Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers. The companies' combined 1,500 stores account for a large percentage of jewelry stores across the country.

The arbitration, first filed in 2008, has grown to include 69,000 women who are current and former employees of Sterling. The accusations against the jewelry conglomerate are threefold:

  • A dozen women who started the arbitration in 2008 claim widespread gender discrimination.
  • Roughly 250 women and men declare that sexual harassment occurred throughout the company and that "female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed."¬†
  • Many of the thousands involved in the class-action argue that women are systematically paid less than men and often passed up for promotions.

Sterling Jewelers denies all allegations. Spokesman David Bouffard told The Washington 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."

The case, Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers, was filed before the American Arbitration Association, which is one of the largest arbitration organizations in the country. A decision is pending for all allegations.

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