Sterling Jewelers must face gender discrimination charges brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an appeals court ruled on Sept. 9, reversing a prior decision dismissing the case.
The EEOC first sued Sterling in 2008, charging it had engaged in sex?based pay and promotion discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sterling—the U.S. arm of Signet, comprising Kay Jewelers and Jared—challenged the EEOC’s investigation of the charges, arguing the agency did not conduct a nationwide inquiry and merely looked at stores in two states. In March 2014, a New York federal court agreed the EEOC’s investigation was inadequate and tossed the case.
The three-judge appeals panel reversed that ruling, arguing that, under the law, the only issue is whether the EEOC investigated, not its adequacy.
The Sterling action is believed to be the largest case on the EEOC’s active docket, according to Sterling’s counsel.
In a statement, Signet spokesperson David Bouffard said: “We have taken the allegations of pay and promotions discrimination raised in the EEOC case very seriously and investigated them thoroughly. They are not substantiated by the facts and do not reflect the culture of our company.
“This ruling does not address the merits of the case, and we will continue to vigorously defend the company against these unjustified legal claims…. We have created strong career opportunities for many thousands of women working at our stores nationwide. As a result of our employment and advancement programs, as well as our culture, the great majority of our store management staff—more than 7 in 10 of our assistant managers and 6 in 10 of our store managers—are female.”