Hundreds of Jared and Kay Jewelers employees allege sexual harassment and discrimination

Newly released statements from a class-action arbitration case against Sterling Jewelers reveal hundreds of employees’ allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the jewelry conglomerate. The arbitration against Sterling, which owns both Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, began back in 2008 but is still ongoing. The statements, which were obtained by The Washington Post, were only just released on Sunday.

Sworn statements from some 250 employees allege that female workers were passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified male colleagues, groped, and pressured into having sex with their male superiors. Several employees also allege that they were punished or intimidated for reporting abuse.

Heather Ballou, a former employee of Kay Jewelers, claims that when she was seeking a transfer in 2005, a district manager said he would help her if she slept with him. Ballou agreed, telling The Post that she felt she had been “backed into a corner.” Another former Kay employee, Sanya Douglas, alleges that one of the managers would essentially force women to sleep with him in order to further their careers, which he referred to as “going to the big stage.”

A considerable number of the sworn statements point to Sterling’s mandatory managers retreats, which would apparently get out of hand at night. One former manager said the men “prowled around the [resort] like dogs that were let out of their cage and there was no one to protect the female managers from them.” The incident Ballou described occurred at one of these retreats.

Meanwhile, those who attempted to report inappropriate behavior faced harsh consequences. Kristin Henry claims a manager tried to kiss and grope her at a managers meeting in 2005. From The Post:

A few days later, she called an internal hotline to report the encounter, believing her identity would be protected. But within days of her report, a regional boss visited her store for two days, interviewed her co-workers and reviewed surveillance video before accusing her of stealing a gold necklace and $100 in cash. She told The Post she showed the boss evidence that she had not stolen anything, but Sterling fired her, a few days before she was set to receive an annual commission payment worth roughly $30,000, she alleged.

69,000 women have signed onto the class-action case since it was filed. A spokesperson for Sterling told The Washington Post the allegations have been “thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture.”

[WaPo | Photo: Getty]