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Case Name Jock v. Sterling Jewelers, Inc. EE-NY-0237
Docket / Court 08-CV-02875 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
On March 18, 2008, sixteen current and former female employees of Sterling Jewelers, Inc., filed a putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Sterling. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sued under under Title VII of the Civil ... read more >
On March 18, 2008, sixteen current and former female employees of Sterling Jewelers, Inc., filed a putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Sterling. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sued under under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages.

The plaintiffs claimed that Sterling—a large jewelry retailer—had engaged in a pattern and practice of sex and age discrimination in its promotion and compensation decisions. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that Sterling promoted and compensated male employees at a statistically significantly higher rate than similarly situated female employees. The plaintiffs pointed to Sterling's failure to publicize advancement opportunities and the company's "tap on the shoulder" promotion system that allowed Sterling managers to promote without any merit-based considerations. Managers were also permitted broad discretion in setting compensation and did not have to comply with any merit-based criteria. The plaintiffs further alleged that female employees had been subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs also filed a complaint with American Arbitration Association in March 2008 challenging the same practices. Pursuant to their employment contract, the plaintiffs were required to initiate alternative dispute resolution through Sterling's "RESOLVE" program. Sterling moved to stay the federal court litigation in favor of arbitration through RESOLVE.

In June 2008, the district court granted Plaintiffs' motion to stay the litigation and refer the matter to arbitration to determine whether RESOLVE permitted class action arbitration. In June 2009, the arbitrator determined that RESOLVE did permit class action arbitration, and thus permitted the plaintiffs to proceed with their class action claim. Sterling then filed a motion in the district court to vacate the arbitrator's determination. In December 2009, the district court (Judge Jed Rakoff) denied Sterling's motion. 677 F. Supp. 2d 661 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). Sterling appealed the district court's order in January 2010. Meanwhile, arbitration continued.

In May 2010, Sterling asked the district court for relief from the court's previous ruling on the arbitration determination, relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Stolt-Nielsen v. Animalfeeds International Corp., 559 U.S. 662 (2010), which held that when a parties' contract is silent on the issue of class arbitration, agreement to allow class arbitration should not be implied in the contract without other supporting evidence of such an agreement. The defendants' appeal was suspended pending the district court's decision on this motion. The district court concluded that it would vacate the arbitration award if jurisdiction were restored to it. 725 F. Supp. 2d 444 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). The Second Circuit issued a limited remand of the appeal, and the district court granted Sterling's motion to vacate the arbitration determination that permitted class arbitration on August 9, 2010.

The plaintiffs appealed the district court's ruling on August 10, 2010. The Second Circuit, noting that the Supreme Court had declined to hold in Stolt-Nielsen that an arbitration agreement must expressly state that the parties agree to class arbitration and that there is a strong presumption in favor of enforcing arbitration awards, reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions to affirm the arbitration determination allowing the plaintiffs to proceed with class action certification. 646 F.3d 113 (2nd Cir. 2011). The district court affirmed the award on October 26, 2011.

Extensive proceedings before the arbitrator for years, and on February 2, 2015, the arbitrator issued Conditional Certification Award and certified a class for the adjudication of plaintiff’s declaratory and injunctive relief claims under Title VII disparate impact claims but not for monetary damages. This allowed current and former female sales employees to pursue their Title VII claims together in a class action. The arbitrator denied a class certification for plaintiff’s Title VII disparate treatment claims because the evidence of Sterling’s alleged intentional general policy of discrimination failed to satisfy the high standard for class certification that Supreme Court recently announced. Here, the arbitrator applied Supreme Court’s ruling in Wal-Mart v. Dukes (see here for more) and rejected the claimants’ work discrimination claim because only a fraction of the proposed class submitted statements discussing individual instances of alleged discrimination. Finally, the arbitrator denied the plaintiff’s motion to certify an opt-out class for their Equal Pay Act claims but stated that this denial without prejudice to the plaintiffs' seeking certification of an opt-in collective action under the Equal Pay Act. The plaintiffs accordingly filed a motion for conditional certification of an opt-in Equal Pay Act collective action with the arbitrator.

On November 15, 2015, the district court affirmed the arbitrator’s decision above, except the part that permitted opt-outs for classwide injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 3, 2015, the defendant appealed the Court’s partial confirmation and that appeal is currently pending before the Second Circuit.

Meanwhile, with respect to Equal Pay Act class action, on March 23, 2016, Sterling moved to vacate the arbitrator’s conditional certification award and order on tolling of the Equal Pay Act limitations period. On April 11, 2016, plaintiffs opposed, contending that the district court lacked jurisdiction to review the challenged rulings because these rulings were not yet “final.” Following an oral argument on May 11, 2016, the court agreed with the plaintiffs and found that it had no jurisdiction to review the arbitrator’s actions because these rulings were not yet final. The court expressed no view on the merits of defendant’s motion to vacate these rulings. On May 31, 2016, the defendant appealed that decision and that appeal is also pending before the Second Circuit.

This case is ongoing.

Jennifer Gitter - 03/16/2013
MJ Koo - 03/12/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Defendant-type
Retailer
Discrimination-area
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Pay / Benefits
Promotion
Discrimination-basis
Age discrimination
Sex discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Retaliation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.
Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Sterling Jewelers, Inc
Plaintiff Description The complaint named as the plaintiff class current and former Sterling female employees harmed by sex and age discrimination.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing EE-NY-0236 : EEOC v. Sterling Jewelers Inc. (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-CA-0303 : Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (N.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  Microsoft Gender Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit
Date: Oct. 14, 2016
By: Outten & Golden
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Age Discrimination Class Action seeks Fair Employment for Older PwC Applicants
http://www.pwcagecase.com/
Date: Apr. 27, 2016
By: Outten & Golden
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Smith Barney Gender Discrimination
https://www.lieffcabraser.com/employment/smith-barney/
Date: August 2008
By: Outten & Golden
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Date: Mar. 1, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Faculty)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
Date: Apr. 1, 2001
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School Faculty)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:08-cv-2875 (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Plaintiffs' First Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 11]
EE-NY-0237-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/23/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 52] (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/18/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order [ECF# 56] (564 F.Supp.2d 307) (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/15/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 66] (677 F.Supp.2d 661) (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/28/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order [ECF# 85] (725 F.Supp.2d 444) (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/26/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 86]
EE-NY-0237-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/03/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 87] (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/06/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 93]
EE-NY-0237-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/11/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order [ECF# 104] (2010 WL 5158617) (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/10/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [Ct. of App. ECF# 216-1] (646 F.3d 113)
EE-NY-0237-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/07/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Costs [Ct. of App. ECF# 220]
EE-NY-0237-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/17/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 114] (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/26/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Regarding Defendant's Motion to Vacate The Class Determination Award [ECF# 144] (143 F.Supp.3d 127) (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/16/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Equal Pay Act Collective Action Conditional Certification Award
EE-NY-0237-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/29/2016
Opinion and Order Regarding Defendant's Motion to Vacate Both the Equal Pay Act Collective Action and Order Re Claimants Motion for Tolling of Equal Pay Act Limitations Period [ECF# 151] (188 F.Supp.3d 320) (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit)
EE-NY-0237-0010
Lynch, Gerard E. (Second Circuit, S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0006
Pooler, Rosemary S. (Second Circuit, N.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0010
Rakoff, Jed Saul (S.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0237-0001 | EE-NY-0237-0003 | EE-NY-0237-0004 | EE-NY-0237-0005 | EE-NY-0237-0007 | EE-NY-0237-0009 | EE-NY-0237-0012 | EE-NY-0237-0014 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Winter, Ralph K. Jr. (Second Circuit, FISCR)
EE-NY-0237-0010
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aziz, Sahar (District of Columbia)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Cochran, Shaylyn Capri (District of Columbia)
EE-NY-0237-9000
Donnell, Loren B (Florida)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Grant, Lynda J (New York)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Kotagal, Kalpana (District of Columbia)
EE-NY-0237-9000
Richards, John Douglas (New York)
EE-NY-0237-9000
Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Smith, Sam Jones (Florida)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Warren, Thomas A. (Florida)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Yang, Jenny R. (District of Columbia)
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Janice, Christina M. (Illinois)
EE-NY-0237-9000
Maatman, Gerald L Jr. (Illinois)
EE-NY-0237-9000
Wozniak, Peter J. (Illinois)
EE-NY-0237-9000
Zashin, Stephen S (Ohio)
EE-NY-0237-9000

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