Every kiss begins with Kay, but maybe ends in binding arbitration
February 27, 2017 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Washington Post: Hundreds allege sex harassment, discrimination at Kay and Jared jewelry company. Declarations from roughly 250 women and men who worked at Sterling, filed as part of a private class-action arbitration case, allege that female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed. Sterling disputes the allegations. The arbitration, first filed in 2008 and still unresolved, now includes 69,000 women.

Not all of the 69,000 class members are alleging sexual impropriety. Many are accusing Sterling of wage violations, arguing women were systematically paid less than men and passed over for promotions given to less experienced male colleagues. ... The case could deeply tarnish a business that sells billions of dollars worth of jewelry a year through romance-centered marketing campaigns such as “Every Kiss Begins with Kay.” ... Like other arbitrations, the case is conducted in private and is legally binding. While arbitrator decisions are appealable, there are very limited grounds on which decisions can be overturned.
posted by RedOrGreen (24 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Disgusting company! They rip people off too.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:51 PM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Disgusting company! They rip people off too.

Diamonds are way over-priced -- that's the reason the misdirection of romance is heavily used by these companies in their ad campaigns.

But I would expect a company that exploits women by making them feel inadequate for not having a large enough rock they are expected to get from someone else and not buy on their own would treat their female employees with equal disdain. I hope these employees really stand up and stand down their exploiters.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:56 PM on February 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


Said the CEO: "First I've heard of it."
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:20 PM on February 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


You know, for these scumbags to demand the right to be the go-between between a man and a woman, with that "every kiss" slogan, that did, and does, more damage to family stability in this country than anything the gay community could even dream of doing.

That company should be the first to get the corporate death penalty.
posted by ocschwar at 9:27 PM on February 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


We need a federal law banning arbitration.

From 2009, Amendment 2588; Al Franken again in 2013.

First: Get the Democrats back in the majority.
Next: Get these things PASSED finally.

Appalling.
posted by kristi at 11:11 PM on February 27, 2017 [15 favorites]


Mandatory binding arbitration, certainly, but having the option to use the arbitration process if both parties desire to do so should still be allowed.
posted by xyzzy at 11:26 PM on February 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


Wow, I saw the title and thought this was going to be ok how Kay Jewelers has been caught switching out diamonds on rings brought in for cleaning to lower quality rocks. What a freaking disaster - these scum bags.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 3:28 AM on February 28, 2017


Sterling, like other U.S. companies, requires all workers to waive their right to bring any employment-related disputes against their employer in public courts. Instead, complaints must be decided in arbitration — a private, quasi-legal system where cases are guaranteed little transparency.
When the "employment-related dispute" is about criminal behavior, how is this requirement enforceable?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 AM on February 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


Every malfeasance beings with M?
posted by Sphinx at 4:56 AM on February 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


This makes me feel viscerally ill.
posted by sockermom at 4:56 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


When the "employment-related dispute" is about criminal behavior, how is this requirement enforceable?

An allegation of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is a civil dispute, esp in context of quid pro quo coercion (sleep with me or you won't get that pay raise).

That's distinguished from the criminal act of sexual assault (unwanted groping and touching), which would need to be brought by the prosecutor's office. It can't be pushed into arbitration. But our criminal justice system isn't very friendly to victims of sexual assault, much less victims of non-rape sexual assault.
posted by Karaage at 5:04 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Okay, not that I buy much jewelry, but it looks like Jared, Kay's, and Shaw's are subsidiaries of Sterling; Sterling's parent is Signet, which also owns Zales. Got it.

Basically, shop locally-owned and not chain jewelry stores, then?
posted by easily confused at 5:17 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


Basically, shop locally-owned and not chain[...] stores, then?

Is this ever not good advice?
posted by Dysk at 5:22 AM on February 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


There are so many talented and professional jewelry crafters out there who create beautiful and unique pieces that it seems a shame to buy some mass-produced, slickly marketed thing from any chain "fine" jewelry store.

It's the equivalent of taking someone to Red Lobster for a fine dining experience.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:38 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


This story is about massive corporate sexual harassment and discrimination, do we need to make it about aesthetic preferences regarding chains vs. local stores?

Millions, perhaps most Americans simply do not have access to quality local shops. That's a problem but maybe let's not treat them like they're dumb assholes when they go to the only outlets that are available to them?
posted by mellow seas at 6:49 AM on February 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


The one and only time I've ever been selected for jury duty was a couple years ago, and I did get impaneled to hear a case involving Jared. They were accusing the only black dude who worked at the store of stealing a diamond. We watched the video footage, he was not stealing any diamonds. The prosecutor's argument had a giant "but he's black, amirite?" thought cloud hanging over it. It was gross as hell. It took us less than 5 minutes to decide on a not guilty verdict.

So, be assured that Jared has no problem taking their employees to a court of law over alleged criminal behavior, no matter how ludicrous the accusation.

And fuck them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:54 AM on February 28, 2017 [15 favorites]


In what way has anyone here been treating folk like dumb assholes for going to local outlets?

(Also, jewelry: not exactly the same as "food" when it comes to needs.)

((Also also, Etsy.))
posted by XtinaS at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


Chain stores are what they are, and I remember when in my small city, it was either cheap diner coffee or Starbucks, I picked Starbucks every time. People who pick chains aren't "dumb assholes," by any means.

But, yes, Etsy. Local barbecue places. Local "furriner" places. Local artists. They exist. And the concept of using your purchasing power to make a political as well as a personal one is pretty well-known by now. Just ask the patrons or the boycotters of Chick-Fil-A, Cracker Barrel, or Nordstrom.
posted by jfwlucy at 7:19 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Please talk about the topic of the post, which is NOT "chain stores suck amirite?"
posted by agregoli at 7:24 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


My apologies. I did in fact contribute to the derail.

Back on topic:
A few days later, she called an internal hotline to report the encounter, believing her identity would be protected. But within days of her report, a regional boss visited her store for two days, interviewed her co-workers and reviewed surveillance video before accusing her of stealing a gold necklace and $100 in cash.
Every detail just makes this all worse and worse! Dang.
posted by XtinaS at 7:32 AM on February 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm gonna talk about local vs chain stores, sorry. But what I have to say is that when I worked retail, the local stores were both the best and the worst in terms of harassment.

When a business isn't large enough to have a legal counsel and an HR department, then the owner or manager or whoever is in charge, there is no going over the head of the abusive manager. And in a lot of these places (food service I am looking at you) the business is on marginal financial footing anyways. If you are a server in a bar/restaurant where the owner is always stroking your ass and making off color comments, what are you going to do about it? You probably don't have the resources to sue him and you know that even if you managed to lawyer up and win he has nothing to lose. The doors would just close, you and all your coworkers lose your jobs, and six months from now the place will reopen with a new name over the door and some other scumbag in charge.

Sure there are fabulous local businesses with decent management that doesn't harass their employees. But so many of the small places are just hotbeds of employee abuse, and there's no recourse beyond just quitting and going somewhere else.

At least with this company, there's something to go after.

If I am a regular customer of a place where I notice the staff turns over like crazy, I try to find somewhere else to take my business. And that goes for both chains and locals.
posted by elizilla at 7:47 AM on February 28, 2017 [13 favorites]


there is no going over the head of the abusive manager

Or the incompetent manager. I have personal experience with that. I once worked in close quarters with a man who became threatening after I told him to stop trying to talk to me about sex. It was bad enough that I had an adrenaline response when he was behind me - I still remember vividly clutching a portafilter and thinking that if I hit him fast enough he couldn't hurt me, and it would be over.

I threw away one of his passive-aggressive, controlling notes and he called my manager and said: "If I have to work with this fucking bitch again I'm going to kill her."

You'd think that wold be immediate grounds for being fired. But no, when I called to say I couldn't work with him anymore - I got told off for behaving like a child. It was apparently my job to placate and make nice with the man who harassed and then threatened to kill me. I called the owner, who I didn't know yet at the time. He was more sympathetic, and seemed appalled by my coworker's behavior - but he didn't really know what he was doing. He didn't have much to do with the day-to-day running of the shop. His solution was to move me to a far less lucrative shift until the guy eventually quit. As far as I know, I'm the only one who suffered any consequences.

And yeah, what are you going to do? Short of taking legal action, the owner is as high up as you can go. There are just fewer levels of hierarchy to appeal to. Obvs, it can be rotten all the way to the top (see: TFA), but the climate in local stores depends a lot on just one or two individuals.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:00 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


There are so many talented and professional jewelry crafters out there who create beautiful and unique pieces that it seems a shame to buy some mass-produced, slickly marketed thing from any chain "fine" jewelry store.

I am a silversmith, and I always encourage people to learn metalsmithing because it is fun, exciting, and therapeutic to work with vices, hammers, and torches, and the end result is always more personal and loving when you make your jewelry yourself. Mall rings are the fast food of jewelry...and home-made is always the best...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:35 PM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


If I am a regular customer of a place where I notice the staff turns over like crazy, I try to find somewhere else to take my business. And that goes for both chains and locals.

I've actually been thinking about this a little, and have adopted a rule of thumb that if a chain regularly has posters advertising for new hires, they will shockingly exploit their workers and I will not shop there.
posted by solarion at 4:52 PM on February 28, 2017


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