While the #MeToo Movement shone a global spotlight on the entertainment industry, it’s painfully clear that the problem is just as widespread in other industries. Sterling Jewelers Inc. is just one example of a company run on discrimination and abuse. For 1000s of women, America’s largest jewellery retailer, and its Zales, Kay and Jared stores, were hotbeds of sexual harassment, assault, unequal pay and discrimination. Back in 2005, two female workers took their concerns to employment lawyers, who set up a confidential toll-free number. 1000s of men and women countrywide phoned in, and it all came out. They spoke about groping, sexual coercion, rape and sexual degradation. The lawyers amassed over 200 sworn statements from staff who mostly didn’t know one another. What emerged was a list of individual horrors and degradations perpetrated against Sterling’s female staff. A system that allowed the abuse to grow and kept it from ever becoming known to other female staff or to the public. A system where men were consistently paid more than women and promoted more quickly. By 2015, the number of claimants stood at an astounding 69,000 women. Their lawyers pursued class action, thinking that a suit with such a large number of women stood a better chance of permanently changing the company-wide culture and policies of unequal pay and harassment, than individual lawsuits.
That lawsuit started almost 14 years ago. Fourteen years is a long time for a lawsuit to drag on with almost zero progress towards a resolution. And it’s a long time to wonder just how an enormous, publicly traded company could keep the details of its sickening working conditions from its shareholders and from the public, and why those dirty secrets might have been the company’s most valuable assets after all. This eye-opening exposé at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/magazine/kay-jewelry-sexual-harassment.html is a must-read.