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Sterling Jewelers faces EEOC class-action discrimination suit

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in Small Business Tax Deduction Strategies

Eight women from the Tampa Bay area have joined an EEOC class-action lawsuit against Sterling Jewelers, owner of Jared, Kay Jewelers and Marks & Morgan stores.

The lawsuit alleges that Sterling, based in Fairlawn, Ohio, pays women in retail sales positions less than men and denies them promotions “with malice or reckless indifference.”

Plaintiff Dawn Soot-Coons was serving as a temporary store manager at the Jared Galleria of Jewelry store in Brandon near Tampa when she found a payroll report left on a desk. It showed that “every male except one earned more—$2, $3 and up to $4 an hour more—than any of the females,” she told the St. Petersburg Times.

“Even the top female sales associate, who sold more than $1 million of jewelry a year, got $2.50 less an hour than a guy just hired with no jewelry experience,” Soot-Coons said.

An EEOC attorney said discrimination complaints at Tampa-area Sterling stores “verified systemic pay and promotion discrimination across the entire company.” Sterling gives local managers broad discretion, resulting in “excessively subjective” pay, the EEOC said.

David Bouffard, vice president of media relations for Sterling, told the National Jeweler trade magazine, “We take the allegations raised in this lawsuit very seriously. We are confident that these charges do not reflect the culture of this company.” He pointed out that most of Sterling’s store managers and employees are female.

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