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Signet Taking ‘Additional Steps’ Following Claims of Sexual Harassment, Discrimination

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“Continuous review and improvement” is the goal.

Signet Jewelers Ltd., parent of Sterling Jewelers, announced that it is taking “additional steps” in the areas of equal employment opportunity and workplace culture.

The announcement follows news that about 250 former employees of Sterling Jewelers, which operates Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Kay Jewelers and Zales, are alleging that the company culture was rife with sexual discrimination and harassment. The claims are part of an arbitration case that dates to 2008.

“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and we want to be sure that the framework we have in place for reporting, and responding to any such issues is robust and effective,” Signet (NYSE: SIG) Chairman Todd Stitzer said in a press release. “It is the intention of this Board and the senior management team to make certain that our culture and our Team Members are fully supported at every level, because culture and people have helped make Signet the leading company in our industry.”

The new steps include:

  • Formation of a new board committee focused on respect in the workforce that will focus on programs and policies to support the advancement and development of our female team members. The directors who will serve on the new committee include Virginia Drosos, CEO of Assurex Health and prior group president of Procter and Gamble; Marianne Miller Parrs, formerly executive vice president and chief financial officer of International Paper Co.; Eugenia Ulasewicz, who served as president of Burberry plc America division; and Helen McCluskey, formerly CEO of The Warnaco Group. “These women comprise all of Signet’s female directors and all are very familiar with the company since they joined the Board between 2008 and 2014,” according to the release.
  • The new committee will appoint an independent consultant to conduct a thorough review, which will cover current and future company policies and practices regarding equal opportunity and workplace expectations, including those covering non-harassment, training and reporting, investigation and non-retaliation.
  • The committee will also establish an independent ombudsperson office to act as an informal third-party avenue to provide confidential advice to employees to address concerns regarding issues in the workforce and to provide options and strategies to assist them in resolution of workplace concerns. “The Ombudsperson is in addition to Signet’s currently available resources and will provide additional assurance to Team Members and management that fairness and respect will always be the touchstones of how we treat each other,” according to the release.

Stitzer said the company already has “consistently worked to improve policies and practices around equal employment opportunity and workplace culture, resulting in better than benchmark female representation in leadership positions.”

“We know that our commitment requires continuous review and improvement, so as we continue our quest to be an employer of choice, we are taking a number of additional steps to ensure our policies and practices are functioning as intended and to identify areas where we can further improve,” he said.

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Signet also released its financial results for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017 and for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 28. 

For the quarter, same-store sales were down 4.5 percent. Operating income, at $399.2 million, was up 1.6 percent.

For the year, same-store sales declined 1.9 percent. Total sales declined 2.2 percent to $6.4 billion.

Mark Light, CEO of Signet, said: “Signet had a challenging fourth quarter and fiscal year, but we delivered top-and-bottom lines for the fourth quarter within our revised expectations. This was driven principally by performance from select categories and collections including diamond fashion jewelry, bracelets, and earrings.

“We are adapting to a challenging retail environment and weak mall traffic. Given the importance of an omni-channel experience to jewelry customers, we have an intensive focus on an omni-channel approach to customer service supported by a significant increase in resources directed to our digital ecosystem.”

 

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