The threat of even a small class-action lawsuit can rattle the coolest of HR pros and the attorneys with whom they work. Imagine being sued by 69,000 current and former employees!
That’s what faces Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of the Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry chains. The lawsuit, initially filed in 2008 and currently before an arbitrator, alleges the company fosters a culture of sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
Sterling has denied the charges.
The suit, details of which were unsealed Feb. 27, cites incidents dating back to the late 1990s in which female employees claim they were “groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater” to their bosses.
Thousands of women allege they were promised transfers, promotions or higher pay if they had sex with male managers. Court documents state that executives from Sterling’s Ohio headquarters dispatched “scouting parties” to the chain’s 1,500 stores to identify attractive women to target.
A ruling on the suit, which also alleges rampant wage discrimination, isn’t expected until next year.