AKRON, OH (WCMH) – A company that owns more than 1,500 jewelry stores across the country is being accused of widespread sexual harassment by former employees.
Sterling Jewelers is a multibillion-dollar company that runs Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers.
The Washington Post reported that roughly 250 women and men filed a private arbitration case claiming that female employees were regularly groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses.
Statements in the documents released to the Post claim that bosses demanded sexual favors from female staffers in order to be considered for promotions or preferred stores.
The claims were first filed in 2008.
In a statement to NBC affiliate WKYC, Sterling Jewelers offered the following response to the Washington Post story.
Guided by our core values of fairness, opportunity, integrity and respect, Sterling has created strong career opportunities for many thousands of women working at our stores nationwide. As a result of our employment and advancement programs, as well as our culture, more than 68 percent of all our store management staff are female, and female participation in management positions continues to grow.
Because of our long-term commitment to equal opportunity, we have taken the allegations of pay and promotions discrimination raised in this case very seriously. We have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture.
It’s critical to understand that none of the 69,000 class members have brought claims in this arbitration for sexual harassment or sexual impropriety. Since the case was filed in 2008, it has never included legal claims of sexual harassment or hostile work environment discrimination. The only claims certified to proceed on a class wide basis relate to alleged unintentional gender pay and promotions discrimination. Despite years of litigation, millions of pages of documentation and numerous depositions, claimants’ counsel have chosen not to proceed with sexual harassment claims. These allegations are being publicized by claimants’ counsel to present a distorted, negative image of the company.
Indeed, the distorted and inaccurate picture of our company presented in these allegations does not represent who we are. They involve a very small number of individuals in a workforce of more than 84,000 during the class period, and many of the allegations go back decades. Complaints that were reported to the company were thoroughly investigated, and action was taken where appropriate. The company had – and continues to have – multiple processes in place to receive and investigate allegations of misconduct, and we continue to encourage all employees to use these processes to raise any workplace concerns so we can investigate and respond appropriately.