On July 24, the second circuit court of appeals vacated a class certification in the Sterling Jewelers gender discrimination case—a victory for the beleaguered company in the now-nine-year-old legal drama.
The question at issue is whether the arbitrator for the case had the authority to certify a nearly 70,000-member class that, like many nonarbitrated class actions, includes members who did not opt-in. While the lower court said that it did, the three-judge panel found that the reasoning behind the decision was faulty and remanded the issue for further consideration.
Joseph M. Sellers, a partner at Cohen Milstein, attorney for the plaintiffs, tells JCK that he didn’t consider this a major setback.
“The landscape is very well established for these kinds of cases,” he says. “We remain optimistic the court will rule in our favor.”
Whatever happens here, the case is likely to continue. Sellers noted that a class composed of only members who have opted in has already been certified.
David Bouffard, spokesman for Sterling parent Signet Jewelers, said, “We believe the Arbitrator’s class certification ruling was overbroad and contrary to law, as it served to bind those who have never consented and were not parties to the litigation. We are pleased that the Second Circuit has ruled to remand the matter back to the District Court for consideration of this important issue.”
He added: “All along in this case, Sterling has taken the allegations of pay and promotions in the case very seriously, we have thoroughly examined the facts, and we believe that the allegations have no merit.”
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