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Women accuse jewelry company of sexual harassment

Diamonds might be called a girl's best friend, but 1,300 pages of sworn testimony from a class-action arbitration case against Sterling Jewelers Inc. allege that female employees experienced widespread sexual harassment. The company operates jewelry stores in malls throughout California and the country, and the attorney for the plaintiffs described the extent of the evidence against the company as "breathtaking".

The case applies to 69,000 current and former female employees, and 250 of them provided statements that recounted two decades of mistreatment. According to testimony, male store managers scouted for women to proposition for sex. Promises of pay increases, promotions or protection from punishment were offered for sexual favors. Witnesses gave details about annual managers' meetings where men drank and groped women. Complaints from female employees allegedly resulted in retaliation like an accusation of theft followed by dismissal.

Not all women involved in the case reported outright harassment, but many maintained that management discriminated against women, paid them unfairly and failed to offer promotions. The company provided a statement to the media that denied the allegations and claimed that an internal investigation had found no facts pointing to a sexist company culture.

Cases of unwanted sexual harassment sometimes involve companies that do not acknowledge complaints from employees or take steps to correct behavior. A person employed at a workplace where owners or managers ask for sexual favors or co-workers make lewd comment might choose to ask an attorney for help. An attorney could notify the company of the complaint and prepare litigation. Evidence collected from company communications and witness testimony could be detailed in court filings as the attorney pursues compensation for the employee that might include lost wages and punitive damages.

Source: Market Watch, "Sterling Jewelers accused of rampant sexual harassment: report", Feb. 27, 2017

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