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Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

Federal, state, and municipal statutes and regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual harassment and pregnancy. Federal and state laws also prohibit discrimination between male and female employees by paying lower wage rates to employees of one sex than to the other for work which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working conditions. Strict compliance with administrative prerequisites and statutes of limitations is necessary to preserve such claims. If you think you have experienced sexual discrimination or harassment, the lawyers at Burr & Smith, L.L.P. can help you evaluate your rights and remedies.

Sterling Jewelers Inc.:

Female Employees of Sterling Jewelers Move For Class Certification Of Their Claims Of Sex Discrimination in Compensation and Promotions.

Current and former women employees who have worked in the stores at Sterling Jewelers Inc., the largest chain of jewelry stores in the country, have brought claims alleging a pattern or practice of sex discrimination in their compensation and promotions.  The case is pending in arbitration which, pursuant to the rules governing the arbitration, ordinarily make the proceedings confidential.  The Claimants have asked that they be permitted to pursue their claims as a class action.  In advance of a hearing on Claimants’ Motion, which is scheduled to take place on February 5, 2014, the Arbitrator ruled that the Claimants may make their motion for class certification available to the public after some material in the brief has been redacted.  The Memorandum in Support of Motion for Class Certification can be accessed here.

Sterling opposes the request for class certification and denies that it has engaged in the sex discrimination that the Claimants have alleged. Next, the Claimants plan to seek to pursue their claims collectively as a class action on behalf of similarly-situated female employees who work or worked in any of Sterling’s brand stores on or after June 2, 2002. 

Background History of Case

The Claimants are current and former female employees of Sterling Jewelers Inc. (“Sterling”) who have alleged they were paid less than similarly-situated male employees or were denied promotional opportunities because of their gender. The Claimants have worked at stores, owned by Sterling, that operate under the brand names: Kay Jewelers, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Marks and Morgan Jewelers, J.B. Robinson Jewelers, LeRoy’s Jewelers, Osterman Jewelers, Goodman Jewelers, Weisfield Jewelers, Shaw’s Jewelers, Friedlanders Jewelers, Rogers Jewelers, and Belden Jewelers.

The case, Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers Inc., AAA Case No. 11 160 00655 08, was filed in March 2008 with the American Arbitration Association, a private agency that manages arbitrations, rather than in court, because Sterling’s alternative dispute resolution program called the RESOLVE Program requires that employees bring claims of this kind before an arbitrator, who acts as a private judge.  Current and former female employees of Sterling sued Sterling under federal civil rights laws alleging that they were paid less than men doing the same work at the same stores and have been denied chances for promotion into salaried jobs because of their gender.  The Claimants’ First Amended Complaint can be viewed here: Claimants’ First Amended Complaint.

Sterling denied that it has committed any discrimination and argued that, in any event, its RESOLVE Program does not permit these women to pursue this case as a class action.

On June 1, 2009, the Arbitrator issued an order finding that Sterling’s RESOLVE Program did not prohibit the Claimants in Jock from bringing their claims together in a class action in arbitration. The Arbitrator’s decision permitting the claimants to seek class certification of their discrimination claims is linked here: Arbitrator’s June 1, 2009 Clause Construction Decision. 

On July 1, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an important ruling in Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers Inc. finding that the Arbitrator properly held that the Claimants could seek to pursue their gender-discrimination claims in a class arbitration.  The decision reversed a district court order that had found that the Arbitrator exceeded her powers in allowing the claimants to seek class certification of their discrimination claims. The Second Circuit’s decision can be viewed by selecting this link: Second Circuit’s July 1, 2011 Decision. 

On March 19, 2012, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by Sterling Jewelers, thus upholding a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which held that the Claimants could seek class certification of their gender discrimination claims within arbitration. The denial of the writ, can be read here. An article discussing the case and the Supreme Court’s decision can be found here.

Prior to filing the demand for arbitration, at least fifteen current or former female employees of Sterling filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). On January 3, 2008, the EEOC issued a Determination finding that Sterling subjected them and other female employees working at its stores in this country who have retail sales responsibilities to a pattern or practice of sex discrimination by paying women less than men doing the same work and denying women the same chance for promotion into salaried jobs.   On September 23, 2008, the EEOC filed its own lawsuit against Sterling alleging a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in its pay and promotion decisions very similar to the case pending in arbitration.  The EEOC’s case is pending in federal court in Buffalo, New York.   The EEOC’s Determination and Complaint can be viewed by selecting these links: EEOC’s Determination and EEOC’s Complaint.

On June 21, 2012, Claimants moved for class certification of on behalf of themselves and similarly-situated female employees who work or worked in any of Sterling’s brand stores on or after June 2, 2002.

It is very important that anyone, female or male, who has information about these discrimination allegations or more generally about how Sterling has treated its women employees please call the lawyers at (813) 253-2010 or (866) 647-3110, or send us an email at rep@burrandsmithlaw.com providing your contact information and where you worked for Sterling.   You may also contact our co-counsel Thomas A. Warren Law Offices, P.L., (Misty McKinnon) toll-free at (866) 854-5152; or Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, (Victoria McLaughlin), at (202) 408-4600. We are interested in speaking with former or current employees, both male and female. (Please note that we are not ethically permitted to discuss the case with current managers unless they believe they have experienced or are experiencing gender discrimination at Sterling).


Female Publix Super Market Employees Sue for Equal Job Benefits

The attorneys at Burr & Smith, L.L.P. have extensive experience litigating cases involving gender discrimination. For instance, Shores v. Publix Supermarkets, Burr & Smith, L.L.P. and co-counsel, obtained certification for more than 160,000 female current and former employees of Publix Super Markets to sue as a class for discrimination in various job benefits, including promotions, allocation of hours, job assignments, job advancement, pay and employment opportunities. In 1997, the Court approved a settlement awarding these women $81.5 million in monetary relief and extensive injunctive relief.

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