Jeweler conglomerate rocked by class-action suit

A class-action suit says women were routinely harassed in order to advance in the company.

ST. PETERSBURG -  It might make you think twice about the jewelry you’re wearing.  Some 250 men and women are accusing some of the country’s most popular jewelry stores of widespread sexual misconduct.

As part of a larger gender discrimination class-action case against parent company Signet Jewelers (shown below), former female employees of Kay, Zale’s, Jared’s and more claim that they were groped, demeaned and pressured for sex.

That includes women in Florida.

“I was forcefully kissed and touched in ways that I didn’t want to be,” said Kristin Henry.

Henry was 22 years old and a manager with a Kay Jewelers near Orlando.

She says at a work conference a male superior followed her into her hotel room and made sexual advances.

“You feel like somebody you trusted and somebody that you were told to look up to and gain experience from was physically able to destroy your career,” she said.

Henry claims that she reported it to the company hotline and was fired two days later after accusations of theft.

Another former employee, Jacquelyn Boyle, describes similar sexual misconduct during her employment at a Jared store in Brandon.

In court documents, she says a male manager-in-training repeatedly texted her and made other unwanted overtures such as saying he wanted to kiss her. 

In all, 250 men and women describe similar experiences and a culture of sexual harassment.

Signet Jewelers denies the allegations. Company officials say they “have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not represent our culture.”

The class-action arbitration case alleging gender discrimination and pay inequality was filed in 2008. More than 69,000 employees have signed on to that and it’s expected to go to trial next year.

Henry says she came forward some 12 years later because she is concerned about other young women.

“You do think people aren’t going to believe what happened,” she said.

Signet Jewelers also pointed out that none of the women involved in the class-action case has filed any legal claim of sexual harassment. 

 

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