Women accusing managers at one of the nation's biggest jewelry companies of sexual harassment say that bosses called demanding sex in return for promotion "going to the big stage." In around 250 declarations filed as part of a huge class-action suit against Sterling Jewelers, owner of the Kay and Jared chains, women say they were objectified, groped, harassed, and pressured into sex to get promotions or even just to keep their jobs, the Washington Post reports. The women, who accuse the company of condoning misbehavior, say top managers sent "scouting" parties to stores to find attractive employees and turned the annual managers' meeting into a "sex-fest."
"Looking back, I can’t believe I did some of the things I had to do,” former Kay employee Heather Ballou tells the Post, adding that at the time, she thought: “You suck it up and do what you have to do for your family. You need this job.” A company spokesman tells USA Today that they "have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture." The class-action suit covers 69,000 female employees, though the company spokesman stresses that the only parts of the case certified to proceed are "alleged unintentional gender pay and promotions discrimination," not sexual harassment or discrimination. (Eric Holder is investigating sexual harassment claims at Uber.)