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Lawsuit claims jewelry store giant underpaid and sexually harassed its female employees

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    A ring from Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, whose parent company is the subject of a discrimination suit.
    A ring from Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, whose parent company is the subject of a discrimination suit. - (Facebook)

    A dollar fifty might not seem like much. But when you multiply that by eight hours a day, forty hours a week and 52 weeks a year, pocket change turns into big bucks. And when the men in an organization are making that money and the women — with the exact same qualifications and experience — aren't, it begs the question: What is wrong with that company?

    That's the question 12 female employees of Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of Jared the Galleria of Jewelers and Kay Jewelers, are asking in a lawsuit against the company that goes well beyond what they claim is rampant pay discrimination to include sexual harassment and vulgar behavior on the clock, according to a story in The New York Times Saturday.

    In one instance, a woman said a sexual harassment complaint she filed against a male employee was later "watered down." And the man at the heart of the complaint was subsequently promoted.

    In another, a former saleswoman at Kay said her male boss would invite her to sit on his lap as a "reward" after a big sale.

    "It used to bring me down to the point where I'd take a break to go outside in the mall and cry," she told The Times.

    The 12 plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for their suit, which could allow for 44,000 current and former female employees to join in.

    For its part, Sterling is fighting the allegations. In a statement, a spokesman for the company told The Times the company believes the allegations "are without merit" and that Sterling has routinely investigated sexual harassment claims and taken appropriate action.

    The journalist in me wants to withhold judgement until the case has played out. The consumer in me might just avoid Sterling stores in the immediate future (not that I do a whole lot of fine jewelry shopping anyway). In the meantime, I'll be watching and waiting to see how this one shakes out.

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    Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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