In a scorching report
from the Washington Post,
unsealed statements and other arbitration documents from a class-action suit against Akron-based Sterling Jewelers revealed a corporate culture that "fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination."
At Sterling's subsidiary jewelry stores across the country — Kay Jewelers, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry among them — managers groped and insulted female employees and openly discussed their sexual exploits. Mandatory annual "Managers Meetings" were described as "sex-fests," replete with boozy pool parties and cigar-smoking executives expecting or demanding entertainment by female underlings.
Documents from the 2008 class-action suit, which is still ongoing, were only released Sunday on the condition that names of Sterling executives be redacted. But 44,000 female employees initially signed on, with that number growing to more than 69,000. The suit alleged that "preying" on female employees was done out in the open, and that the company culture encouraged such behavior.
Mark Light, the CEO of Sterling's parent company, Signet Jewelers, was directly implicated in the report.
Sterling, the Washington Post
reports, disputes the allegations, and says it has created "strong career opportunities for many thousands of women" and has “multiple processes in place to receive and investigate allegations of misconduct."
But several statements from the women suggest otherwise. One, from a nine-year Sterling manager, did so directly.
Sterling "did not have an effective or serious mechanism by which female employees could complain about their mistreatment," she said.
reported that the former and current employees are seeking punitive damages and years of back pay, but that no estimate of the potential damages has been provided. A hearing with witness testimony won't take place for some time, currently scheduled for early next year.
Sterling Jewelers is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with headquarters on Ghent Road in Fairlawn.