After 15 years of fighting, Sterling Jewelers, parent company of shopping mall stalwarts Kay Jewelers, Jared and Zales, agreed to resolve a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company discriminated against tens of thousands of employees over pay and promotions. The case also spurred additional allegations that included sexual harassment accusations against senior executives.
The company was accused of having a policy "prohibiting employees from discussing their pay with each other," which "made it difficult for women to identify instances where they were paid less than male employees performing the same job."
The class grew to 68,000 plaintiffs who claimed women were discriminated both in compensation and in promotions.
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Ohio-based Sterling Jewelers and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC announced the agreement, which calls on the company, a subsidiary of UK-based Signet Jewelers, to pay $175 million. Of that, $125 million would be split among the class members and the rest would go to the lawyers.
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"This settlement provides for significant monetary relief for our clients and ensures that the practices that gave rise to this case will not recur. And we applaud Sterling Jewelers for undertaking important and meaningful changes to its workplace policies, which have moved it forward as a leader in gender equality," said Joseph Sellers, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.