Owner Of Zales, Jared, And Kay Jewelers Settles Charges It Discriminated Against Female Workers

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While a class-action arbitration case involving hundreds of female workers against Sterling Jewelers is slated to go to trial this fall, the company has settled federal civil charges accusing it of sexual bias against female employees.

Parent company Signet Jewelers — which owns the Zales, Jared, and Kay retail brands — and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission revealed the settlement in a joint filing [PDF] in federal court in Buffalo, NY, on Thursday.

As part of the deal, Sterling does not have to admit any wrongdoing or pay any damages. The company has agreed to hire an independent employment expert to overhaul its compensation and promotion practices, and will train managers to avoid bias and ensure that women be compensated fairly and considered for job promotions and transfers for which they’re qualified.

In 2008, the EEOC filed a lawsuit accusing Sterling of discriminating against female retail sales employees with respect to pay and promotions.

The company says it’s pleased to have reached an agreement with the EEOC.

“Signet has a sound framework of policies and practices designed to ensure equal opportunity for women and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Lynn Dennison, the company’s chief legal, risk and corporate affairs officer said in a statement to The New York Times. “The additional steps agreed to as part of the consent decree with the E.E.O.C. are consistent with our commitment to continuous review and improvement.”

Again, this settlement will not resolve any claims related to the ongoing arbitration case, which accuses executives of presiding “over a corporate culture that fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination.”

The lead attorney in the class-action against Sterling says his team is looking forward to its day in court.

“The settlement between Sterling Jewelers and the EEOC has no bearing on the class action lawsuit brought on behalf of thousands of women who were subjected to a campaign of sex discrimination in compensation and promotions,” Joe Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll said in a statement. “Our case against Sterling on behalf of these women is headed to trial early next year and we very much look forward to getting justice for the victims and to forcing Sterling to enact meaningful reforms that will improve the working conditions for all Sterling employees.”

Signet is also facing a federal class action filed on behalf of shareholders, accusing the company of failing to disclose the complaint female employees first filed in 2008.