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Jewelry company employees allege pervasive sex discrimination

Jewelry stores operated by Sterling Jewelry Co. offer shoppers at malls in Pennsylvania and around the country romantic gifts, but the claims of current and former employees have painted a picture of widespread sexual discrimination against women at the company. Since 2008, the company has been addressing the complaints through arbitration. At first, over a dozen women alleged that the company treated women unfairly. In 2013, attorneys for the women asked to expand the arbitration to a class action that included 69,000 people.

Attorneys for the employees and ex-employees want the company to pay punitive damages and compensate victims for lost pay. So far about 250 women and men have given statements during arbitration that claim that women at the company experienced groping from managers and executives, and that management asked for sexual favors in exchange for promotions or continued employment.

Although a spokesperson for the company pointed out that sex discrimination was the issue and not sexual harassment, testimony from multiple witnesses points to a company culture that encouraged the latter behavior. Sworn statements that recount behavior at the company's annual managers' meeting described women being molested and asked to strip. The CEO allegedly took part in the harassment of female employees.

When a person experiences behavior similar to this at work, a complaint could be filed with company management. Discussing the situation with an attorney could also be appropriate. An attorney might help the victim understand what actions, such as lewd comments or unwanted sexual advances, could be unlawful. If the company does not correct the problem, an attorney could collect evidence about the sexual harassment and file a lawsuit seeking appropriate damages.

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