Scores of former workers at the company that owns popular jewelry stores such as Zales, Kay Jewelers and Jared’s Galleria, say managers promoted a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
About 250 women and men who worked for Sterling complained in sworn statements that female employees were groped and encouraged to have sex with their bosses to keep their jobs throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the newspaper reported.
The declarations were made as part of a private class-action arbitration case, which was first filed in 2008 and now includes 69,000 current and former female employees.
Some workers said that top male managers sought out women they wanted to sleep with at stores and told female employees they could move up the ladder by have sex with them, according to report
Others claimed that the annual managers meeting was a “sex-fest,” with women being grabbed and harassed by male executives.
“[They] 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,” Ellen Contaldi, a Sterling manager between 1994 and 2008, wrote in a statement, according to the Washington Post.
Sanya Douglas, who worked at Kay between 2003 and 2008, said one manager called the practice of male superiors convincing women to do sexual favors for them so they could get promoted “going to the big stage.”
“If you didn’t do what he wanted with him, you wouldn’t get your [preferred] store or raise,” she said in her statement.
Even Mark Light, the chief executive of Sterling’s parent company, Signet Jewelers, was implicated in the sexual harassment allegations. He’s been accused of sleeping with female workers – and promoting women willing to perform sexual favors.
A spokesman for Sterling, David Bouffard, told The Washington Post that company officials “have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture.” Bouffard added that the allegations “involve a very small number of individuals.”
Light did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.
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