Another employer has been accused of promoting a culture that condoned, and even encouraged, sexual harassment. Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of such well-known shopping mall jewelry stores as Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry has been accused of rampant harassment and discrimination by hundreds of former employees.
Sadly, this is an all too pervasive problem in toxic workplaces, as I recently wrote in regards to the Uber allegations. The Sterling accusations are not isolated incidents. More than 250 women, and some men, filed a private class-action arbitration case in 2008 alleging incidents of groping, demeaning behavior and demand for sexual favors that happened in the late 1990s and 2000s. This is on the heels of an even larger case of some 69,000 employees alleging widespread gender discrimination. According to testimonies just released, top male managers of this company bullied women with ridicule, “scouting parties” to find attractive sex partners, and demands for sexual favors in exchange for raises, promotions or protection from reprisal.
Because many employees waive their right to bring suits in public court as a condition of their employment, it’s difficult to get transparency in cases like these. The system is set up to protect the company at the cost of the employees instead of creating a psychologically healthy, safe and fair workplace.
As I discuss in my new book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, workplaces of this sort are often an open secret. That was certainly true at FOX News and Uber. Until companies create an ironclad rule to punish any violators regardless of their position or contribution to the company, this behavior will continue. Throwing billions of dollars at harassment awareness workshops and diversity seminars have not, and will not ever make a dent. Only accountability will do that. Let’s hope as the Women’s March empowers women to speak out against injustice accountability becomes the new normal.