Sterling Sued for Discrimination

Sterling Jewelers has been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly “discriminating against a large class of female employees at stores nationwide.”

In its suit, the EEOC alleges Sterling “pays its female retail sales employees less than male employees performing equal work, and denies female employees promotional opportunities for which they are qualified.” It does this, the suit claims, “by maintaining a system for making promotion and compensation decisions that is excessively subjective, and through which Sterling Jewelers has permitted or encouraged managers to deny female employees” equal pay and promotion opportunities.

The EEOC said it filed its lawsuit after failing to reach a voluntary settlement with Sterling. It is seeking “monetary relief, an order requiring the company to implement new policies and practices to prevent discrimination, training about antidiscrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.”

Sterling, in a statement to JCK, said it had investigated the allegations when they arose but couldn’t substantiate them. The statement continued, “We do not believe these charges are valid.” The company noted that the majority of its store managers and employees are women.

“We take the allegations raised in this lawsuit very seriously,” said David A. Bouffard, Sterling Jewelers vice president, media relations. “We are confident these charges don’t reflect the culture of this company. Fairness, opportunity, integrity, and respect are core values at Sterling.” He said the company would “defend ourselves vigorously against whatever legal action arises.“