Two local judges have thrown out a nationwide gender discrimination suit against one of the country’s biggest jewelry chains.
The judges dismissed a 4-year-old suit against Sterling Jewelers after finding it was based on an inadequate investigation by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The investigation, which was led by the Buffalo office of the EEOC, led to a civil suit that accused Sterling of failing to promote women and paying female employees less than males doing the same job.
The civil suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, sought back pay for thousands of former and current Sterling workers in all 50 states. Sterling has about 1,300 stores nationwide, including Jared, Kay Jewelers and Marks & Morgan Jewelers, according to its website.
In dismissing the suit, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara was acting on a motion by Sterling and a recommendation from U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy.
“We believe Magistrate Judge McCarthy’s decision was well reasoned, thorough and reflected the evidence,” said Gerald L. Maatman Jr., a lawyer for the retail chain.
McCarthy, in his ruling, found that the EEOC did not conduct the kind of a nationwide investigation that is required in companywide pay and promotion lawsuits like the one against Sterling.
A lawyer for the EEOC declined to comment Tuesday, but in the past, the agency claimed a full, nationwide investigation was done.
During its challenge of McCarthy’s recommendation, the EEOC argued that judicial reviews of its investigations are not permitted.
The agency maintains those type of reviews shift focus away from the heart of the lawsuit – in this case, the gender discrimination alleged by 18 of Sterling’s female employees.