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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
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
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, a large jewelry retailer. The case was assigned to District Judge Jed Sol Rakoff. The ... 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, a large jewelry retailer. The case was assigned to District Judge Jed Sol Rakoff. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sued under under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e), the Equal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. § 206(d)), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.), seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages.

The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant 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 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 the 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 allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their class claim. Sterling then filed a motion in the district court to vacate the arbitrator's determination. In December 2009, the Judge 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 allow the plaintiffs to proceed as a class. 646 F.3d 113 (2nd Cir. 2011). After the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, the district court affirmed the award on October 26, 2011.

Extensive proceedings before the arbitrator continued for years, and on February 2, 2015, the arbitrator certified a class for the adjudication of the plaintiffs' 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 class certification for plaintiffs' 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 had recently announced in Wal-Mart v. Dukes (see here for more). In addition to certifying the Title VII class, the arbitrator permitted class members to opt out of the putative declaratory and injunctive relief.

Sterling filed a motion to vacate the arbitrator's class certification decision for two reasons. First, Sterling argued that the arbitrator exceeded her authority by purporting to bind absent class members who did not express their consent to be bound. Second, the defendants argued that the arbitrator erred by permitting opt-outs in a class action that sought injunctive relief. On November 15, 2015, the Judge Rakoff denied the first argument by finding that it was foreclosed by earlier proceedings. But Judge Rakoff agreed with the defendant's second argument; injunctive class-actions do not allow for opt-outs. As such, Judge Rakoff vacated the class certification insofar as it allowed for opt-outs, but kept intact all other determinations. 143 F. Supp. 3d 127.

Defendants appealed the district court's holding. On July 24, 2017, the Second Circuit vacated the district court's decision and remanded the case, holding that the issue of whether the arbitrator had the power to bind absent class members to class arbitration lacking their consent had not been previously decided. 703 Fed. App'x 15.

Back in the district court, on January 16, 2018 Judge Rakoff held that an arbitrator may not bind non-parties to a class action after a court has determined that an arbitration agreement does not permit class action procedures. 284 F. Supp. 3d. As such, the court vacated the February 2, 2015 order that certified a class of individuals that had not opted into the arbitral proceedings. However, it left intact the class of individuals that had opted in.

The plaintiffs appealed that order and on November 18, 2019, the Second Circuit agreed with them. 942 F.3d 617. The circuit held that absent class members were still bound by the decisions of the arbitrator because of their original decision to sign arbitration agreements.

When the mandate reached the district court, Judge Rakoff remanded the case back to arbitration on January 27, 2021. As of September 2021, the case remains pending in federal court.

The case remains ongoing.

Jennifer Gitter - 03/16/2013
MJ Koo - 03/12/2017
Keagan Potts - 03/20/2019
Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 09/08/2021


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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
Special Case Type
Non-court arbitration/mediation
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 outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 03/18/2008
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing EE-NY-0236 : EEOC v. Sterling Jewelers Inc. (W.D.N.Y.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
S.D.N.Y.
05/03/2021
2:08-cv-2875
EE-NY-0237-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D.N.Y.
04/23/2008
Plaintiffs' First Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 11]
EE-NY-0237-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
06/18/2008
Order [ECF# 52]
EE-NY-0237-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
07/15/2008
Memorandum Order [ECF# 56] (564 F.Supp.2d 307)
EE-NY-0237-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
12/28/2009
Opinion and Order [ECF# 66] (677 F.Supp.2d 661)
EE-NY-0237-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
07/26/2010
Memorandum Order [ECF# 85] (725 F.Supp.2d 444)
EE-NY-0237-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/03/2010
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 86]
EE-NY-0237-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
08/06/2010
Order [ECF# 87]
EE-NY-0237-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/11/2010
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 93]
EE-NY-0237-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
12/10/2010
Memorandum Order [ECF# 104] (2010 WL 5158617)
EE-NY-0237-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/07/2011
Judgment [Ct. of App. ECF# 216-1] (646 F.3d 113)
EE-NY-0237-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/17/2011
Statement of Costs [Ct. of App. ECF# 220]
EE-NY-0237-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
10/26/2011
Order [ECF# 114]
EE-NY-0237-0012.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
11/16/2015
Opinion and Order Regarding Defendant's Motion to Vacate The Class Determination Award [ECF# 144] (143 F.Supp.3d 127)
EE-NY-0237-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
02/29/2016
Equal Pay Act Collective Action Conditional Certification Award
EE-NY-0237-0016.pdf | Detail
S.D.N.Y.
05/23/2016
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)
EE-NY-0237-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/24/2017
USCA Order for Further Proceedings [Ct. of App. ECF# 161] (703 Fed.Appx. 15)
EE-NY-0237-0017.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
01/16/2018
Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Vacate [ECF# 168] (284 F.Supp.3d 566)
EE-NY-0237-0018.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
11/18/2019
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 134] (942 F.3d 617)
EE-NY-0237-0020.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Carney, Susan Laura (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0020
Garaufis, Nicholas (E.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0017
Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0010 | EE-NY-0237-0017 | EE-NY-0237-0020
Koeltl, John George (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0020
Livingston, Debra Ann (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0017
Lynch, Gerard E. (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0006
Pooler, Rosemary S. (N.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0010
Rakoff, Jed Saul (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
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-0237-0018 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Winter, Ralph K. Jr. (FISCR, Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0010
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aziz, Sahar (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Cochran, Shaylyn Capri (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Donnell, Loren B (Florida) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Grant, Lynda J (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Kotagal, Kalpana (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Richards, John Douglas (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Smith, Sam Jones (Florida) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Warren, Thomas A. (Florida) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Yang, Jenny R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-0002 | EE-NY-0237-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Janice, Christina M. (Illinois) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Klein, Jeffrey S. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Maatman, Gerald L Jr. (Illinois) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Wallin, Mark William (Illinois) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Wozniak, Peter J. (Illinois) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000
Zashin, Stephen S (Ohio) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0237-9000

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