Sterling Jewelers Settles EEOC Gender Bias Claims But Class Action Still Possible

By | May 9, 2017

Sterling Jewelers Inc. has settled claims by a U.S. agency that it discriminated against female employees in pay and promotions, but the deal will not affect a similar case brought on behalf of nearly 70,000 women who worked for the company.

The settlement was revealed in a joint filing in federal court in Buffalo, New York on Thursday by Sterling, a unit of Signet Jewelers Ltd, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Akron, Ohio-based Sterling will adopt new anti-discrimination policies and train managers on how to avoid bias, but will not pay any money to settle claims in a 2008 lawsuit by the EEOC that it engaged in a nationwide practice of paying men more than women and favoring them for promotions.

Lynn Dennison, Signet’s chief legal officer, said in a statement that the company, which denied any wrongdoing, was pleased to resolve the case.

“Signet has a sound framework of policies and practices designed to ensure equal opportunity for women and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” she said.

Sterling, which owns Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, is also facing class action sex discrimination claims in a case brought by female employees in private arbitration.

Signet’s stock plunged in February after 1,300 pages of documents in the case were made public in which women claimed they were groped, demean and pressured to have sex with male managers in exchange for raises and promotions.

In March, Signet shareholders sued the company, claiming it broke the law by failing to disclose the severity of the sex bias claims.

The class action is scheduled to go to trial early next year. A U.S. appeals court next week will hear Sterling’s challenge to a decision certifying the women as a class.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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