Say you run a big company that sells jewelry. Say your company has two chains of jewelry stores that are in pretty much every mall in the United States. Say you have the level of brand recognition that causes a blogger writing about your company to realize she has been unconsciously humming one of your jingles as she sits in front of her keyboard. And say your target market is mainly women and men who buy gifts for women.
You would think, if you ran such a business, that you would treat women well, right?
Sterling Jewelers, Inc, the parent company of Kay Jewelers and Jared jewelry stores, is in a lot of hot water after literally thousands of female employees have submitted sworn testimony stating that they experienced wage discrimination and pervasive sexual harassment while working for the company.
According to documents collected for a 2008 class action suit against the company in the wage discrimination case, women described an atmosphere where they were routinely passed over in favor of men for promotions, rampant wage secrecy that made it so they never knew if they were being paid comparably to men in similar jobs, and men held most of the company's powerful positions.
The newly released documents include testimony from women working in the retail outlets who were officially prohibited from sharing how much they made at work but found out through casual conversation that the men in the same store made significantly more than they did. Former male employees are also on the record confirming the wage inequality.
I guess that’s why the slogan is “HE went to Jared” instead of “SHE went to Jared”. Only HE could afford to shop there after working there.
Moreover, women describe a sexually charged atmosphere throughout the company. Innuendo and sexual propositions from managers to subordinates were common. Sexual comments and touching were routine, and certain company events had a reputation as being excuses for heavy drinking and sexual activity between managers, executives, and female employees.
Wonder if the guys bought the women a little something sparkly afterwards so the women wouldn’t tell their wives? With the company discount, of course.
The case is being handled through arbitration, which means no trial. That’s why we haven’t heard about it until this week, when a judge ordered that 1,300 pages of testimony be released to the public.
The great philosopher Beyoncé once said if you like it, then you should've put a ring on it. But I think in the case of Sterling Jewelry, Inc, Queen Bey would tell us to say “Boy, bye.” I, for one, can do my jewelry shopping at stores that treat all of their employees as respected equals.