Sterling Settles EEOC Gender Discrimination Case

Sterling Jewelers has settled its nine-year-old battle with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over whether it discriminated against female employees on pay and promotions.

The settlement does not affect the ongoing class-action arbitration against Sterling, which also charges the retailer with gender discrimination.

In 2008, the EEOC filed against Sterling, alleging Signet’s largest division paid female retail sales associates less than their male counterparts and offered them fewer promotional opportunities, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The settlement includes a consent decree, which stipulates:

– The company will hire organizational psychology expert Dr. Nancy Trippins to review its policies and practices.

– It must hire a compliance officer, at vice president level or above, to judge its compliance with the consent decree.

– Within 10 days, it must provide the EEOC with an updated nondiscrimination policy, which the agency must approve.

– The retailer will now post a registry of promotion opportunities on an online portal for employees.

Spokesperson David Bouffard notes the consent decree includes “no monetary award, no admission of wrongdoing, and no monitoring. That’s unusual in these cases.”

He also stressed that the EEOC case did not involve any allegations of sexual harassment—even though those allegations have surfaced in the class-action arbitration.

Sterling’s parent company, Signet, recently announced several actions to review the company’s policies and practices, including forming a new board committee focused on respect in the workplace and appointing former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones to serve as an independent consultant.

(Image courtesy of EEOC)

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