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Missouri employee claims gender discrimination

A class-action lawsuit was filed last month against Sterling Jewelers, owner of 1,400 jewelry stores, including many in Missouri. Two jewelry chains owned by Sterling include Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.

According to the filing, the company made a pattern of discriminating against female employees. Some of the ways in which the employment discrimination targeted women was by paying them less than their male counterparts, not responding appropriately to alleged persistent sexual harassment claims and denying female employees promotions.

One employee in Saint Peters, Missouri, claims that she earned only $8.50 an hour while a male associate with a similar job description made $11.50. A manager of Sterling-owned stores in both Minnesota and Wisconsin took home $35,000 a year. Her husband, who managed other Sterling stores, brought in $55,000 annually. Both spouses had a comparable level of work experience, and the wife had repeatedly won the highest awards for excellence in her field that were given by the company.

The petition cites similar stories of alleged gender discrimination toward 16 former or current company employees.

The fight for workplace equality for women with this company is in its ninth year. A 2008 lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Sterling was dismissed recently by a federal judge on the grounds that the commission failed to conduct a thorough inquiry of the company, saying the investigation only targeted a few stores.

The class-action lawsuit is barred from being settled in court because of a clause in the employment contracts of all Sterling employees that states disputes must be handled by arbitration.

Missouri employees who face discrimination in their workplaces may have more options available to them for redress. An attorney who practices employment law can help you learn what options are best for your situation.

Source: Slate, "Another Reason Not to Go to Jared: Female Employees Say They're Paid Less Than Men" Amanda Hess, Mar. 31, 2014

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