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Gender Discrimination Update: Group Of Women Denied Equal Pay and Promotions by Sterling Jewelers Can Move Ahead With Class Arbitration

above-the-bar-logo.jpgThe U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that a group of women who had charged their employer, Sterling Jewelers Inc. (“Sterling”), with denying them equal pay and promotion, can seek arbitration as a class for their claims of gender discrimination against the national jewelry company. The country’s largest specialty retail jeweler, the company owns and operates Kay Jewelers, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, and Marks & Morgan Jewelers.

Sterling’s female employees brought suit in 2008, alleging that they were paid less than their male co-workers and not given the same equal opportunity for promotions. The women had alleged that they were paid $1 to $3 per hour less than men and offered fewer promotions. If you are being paid less or not receiving the same benefits or employment opportunities as other males at your workplace who are performing similar work as you, your employer may be violating the Equal Pay Act as well as committing gender discrimination. Our attorneys have helped many women obtain their rightful compensation and promotions.

Sterling contended that the women had signed arbitration agreements which stopped them from filing a class action suit for any complaints. Sterling’s alternative dispute resolution program required the claims to be arbitrated so the case was referred to the American Arbitration Association. Seeking class action certification, plaintiff, along with 16 other women, brought the case in their own names as well as on behalf of other women similarly situated.

Sterling denied the women’s claims and contended that its arbitration program, called RESOLVE, stopped the women from bringing their claims as a class action. The arbitrator ruled in 2009 that Sterling’s RESOLVE program did allow the women to combine their claims in a class action arbitration. Sterling, however, appealed the decision to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, who ultimately reversed the arbitrator’s ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the ruling and held that the women could bring their claims as a class.

The Court’s ruling will allow these women to bring their claims together through class arbitration, instead of making each woman bring her claim alone. Former and current female employees who worked at any of Sterling’s stores on or after February 2, 2003 will be able to proceed as a class, once they are certified.

The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where men and women are performing work involving similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions. Although the jobs do not need to be identical, they must be substantially equal. The Act covers all forms of pay, including but not limited to salary, overtime pay, bonuses, life insurance, vacation pay, and benefits. If there is an inequality in pay between a male and a female employee, an employer may not reduce the wages of either sex to make their pays equal.

Unfortunately, gender discrimination affecting pay, promotions, as well as other aspects of employment is still prevalent across the country. If you think you are not being paid the same salary or promotion opportunity as your male counterpart, call our Gender Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to help you make sure your workplace rights regarding compensation and benefits are not being violated.

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