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The fallout from the Sterling case

New York residents may have heard about a class-action claim against Sterling Jewelry. The first claims were filed in 2008, and the matter eventually involved more than 69,000 employees. The plaintiffs alleged that the company engaged in promotion discrimination as well as sexual harassment against women. Among the allegations were claims of being groped or being asked for sex in exchange for promotions or other prime assignments.

While the case was originally handled through private arbitration, the nature of the claims were made public as part of a Washington Post report. After a Feb. 27 report about the sexual harassment suit, shares of the company fell 13 percent, and trading was briefly halted at one point. In a statement, the company said that the claims were related to gender discrimination and not sexual harassment. Furthermore, the claims were said to have been distorted by the press.

Many employers require workers to agree to handle employment claims through arbitration as part of their employment contract. Courts generally uphold these agreements, and proponents say that they may allow an employee to obtain justice faster because decisions cannot be appealed. However, opponents of arbitration say that employers prefer them because the cases stay out of the public eye, and employees may not have a legitimate opportunity to discover evidence.

Those who are fired, receive a demotion or are otherwise harassed at work after making a sexual harassment claim may wish to talk with an attorney. It may be possible to win compensation for back pay or loss of benefits that may have occurred because of a demotion or wrongful termination. In some cases, a claim may be made part of a class-action lawsuit, which may make it easier for it to be heard in a timely manner.

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