The Washington Post broke the story after obtaining arbitration documents that included testimonies from about 250 women and men who worked for the company.
According to the Post, their testimonies allege that, from the late 1990s into the 2000s, women employed by the company were "routinely groped, demeaned, and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed." Sterling Jewelers has disputed the allegations, and the case remains unresolved.
As the Post reports, statements allege that companies male leadership "dispatched scouting parties to stores to find female employees they wanted to sleep with, laughed about women’s bodies in the workplace, and pushed female subordinates into sex by pledging better jobs, higher pay, or protection from punishment." The women employed by the company felt they had "little recourse" when it came to their male managers' behavior, and employees allege that those who reported abuse were "verbally attacked or terminated." Though most of the accused names have been withheld, the Post reports that a 2013 memorandum from the employees' attorneys revealed that Mark Light, now chief executive of Sterling Jeweler's parent company, was among the management leaders who have been accused of harassing female employees.
The allegations come from the company's annual manager meetings, events that employees described as "boozy, no-spouses-allowed 'sex [fests].'" Melissa Corey, a manager of Sterling stores in Massachusetts and Florida between 2002 and 2008, said in her declaration that sexual "preying" at these events was routine and "done out in the open and appeared to be encouraged, or at least condoned, by the company." According to the 2013 memo, women were "aggressively pursued, grabbed, and harassed" at these mandatory gatherings, and the Post reveals that several witnesses said they saw Light "'being entertained' as he watched and joined nude and partially undressed female employees in a swimming pool." Light did not respond to a request from the Post for comment.
The company had—and continues to have—multiple processes in place to receive and investigate allegations of misconduct, and we continue to encourage all employees to use these processes to raise any workplace concerns so we can investigate and respond appropriately." ©2017 Condé Nast.