EEOC Says Jewelry Retail Giant Discriminated Against Thousands of Women Nationwide
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sterling Jewelers Inc., the largest specialty retail jeweler in the country, violated federal law by discriminating against a large class of female employees at stores nationwide, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges in a systemic lawsuit filed yesterday under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In its suit, the EEOC asserts that Sterling Jewelers pays its female retail sales employees less than male employees performing equal work and denies female employees promotional opportunities for which they are qualified. Sterling Jewelers intentionally discriminates against female retail sales employees by maintaining a system for making promotion and compensation decisions that is excessively subjective, and through which Sterling Jewelers has permitted or encouraged managers to deny female employees equal access to promotion opportunities and the same compensation paid to similarly situated male employees, the EEOC states in its suit.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement (EEOC v. Sterling Jewelers Inc., Civil Action No.08-CV 706, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Buffalo). The EEOC seeks monetary relief, an order requiring the company to implement new policies and practices to prevent discrimination, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and other injunctive relief.
“We hope this case is a wake up call to corporate America that sex discrimination in employment must be taken seriously and addressed appropriately,” said EEOC’s New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “It should be a ‘no-brainer’ in the 21st century workplace that women deserve pay and promotional opportunities based on merit, not gender. Employers who fail to grasp and abide by the letter of the law do so at great risk.”
EEOC Philadelphia District Director Marie Tomasso added, “In granting managers discretion to make pay and promotion decisions, employers need to ensure that they are not also granting discretion to engage in sex discrimination. Every person deserves the freedom to compete and advance in the workplace as far as their talent and ability allows.”
In Fiscal Year 2007, the EEOC received 24,826 charges alleging sex-based discrimination, up 7% from the prior year to the highest level since FY 2002.
According to its web site (www.sterlingjewelers.com), “Akron, Ohio-based Sterling Jewelers Inc. is the U.S. operations of London-based Signet Group plc, making it part of the largest specialty retail jewelry company in the world. Sterling is the largest U.S. specialty retail jeweler as ranked by sales with 1,308 stores in 50 states. Its’ mall stores are known nationwide as Kay Jewelers, and regionally under a number of well-established and recognized names, such as JB Robinson Jewelers. Sterling's destination superstores are known as Jared The Galleria of Jewelry.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.