Kay Jewelers Accused Of Demanding Sex For Promotions, 250 Employees Speak Out

"It was almost like when someone is in an abusive relationship: you think that’s what normal is."

By Eric Shorey

One of the nation's largest jewelry companies, Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, is facing a huge scandal as 250 men and women have come forward detailing horrifying accusations of sexual harassment throughout the company. A report from USA Today says that higher-ups in the company treated female employees "as their private harems" and demanded sexual favors in exchange for promotions and job security.

A class action suit on behalf of the victims was filed back in 2008. The company was accused of routine sexual harassment and wage inequalities for male and female employees. Amongst the accused were chief executives of Sterling's parent company Signet Jewelers, including CEO Mark Light. Specifics of the complaints were not known until recently when a 1300 page document was released to the press.

Sordid details emerge in these documents. Alleged victims say they were scouted for sex at recruitment parties and were pressured into sexual relations in exchange for better positions within the company — "going to the big stage," as it was known internally. In total, 69,000 current and former females employees of Sterling are implicated in the class action suit.

David Bouffard, Vice President for Signet Corporate Affairs, is denying pretty much all of it: "We have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture," he said in a statement. "The only claims certified to proceed on a class-wide basis relate to alleged unintentional gender pay and promotions discrimination. Despite years of litigation, millions of pages of documentation and numerous depositions, claimants’ counsel have chosen not to proceed with sexual harassment claims. These allegations are being publicized by claimants’ counsel to present a distorted, negative image of the company."

“Looking back, I can’t believe I did some of the things I had to do,” said Heather Ballou, a former Kay employee. “You suck it up and do what you have to do for your family. You need this job ... What’s sad is that I was there for so long, it was almost like when someone is in an abusive relationship: You think that’s what normal is."

[Photo: Getty Images]

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