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Signet Jewelers CEO, at center of gender-discrimination case, retires for ‘health reasons’

Sterling Jewelers, which owns Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, faces a class-action lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination from 44,000 feminine staff. (Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

Mark Light, the Signet Jewelers chief government at the center of a sprawling gender-discrimination case, will retire resulting from “health reasons” and get replaced at the top of this month, the corporate stated Monday.

Light was named CEO in 2014 and labored for 35 years at the retail-jewelry conglomerate, greatest recognized for its manufacturers Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers. He shall be changed by Virginia “Gina” C. Drosos, who has served on the corporate’s board since 2012.

Light’s tenure has been marked by an ongoing class-action arbitration case during which 69,000 women who labored for a Signet subsidiary, Sterling Jewelers, alleged that the corporate discriminated against them in pay and promotion practices.

Hundreds of women have filed sworn statements in recent times alleging that additionally they confronted sexual harassment or discrimination, and Light and different key executives have been accused of selling women based mostly upon their responses to sexual calls for, attorneys for the women stated in a 2013 submitting.

Former Sterling staff alleged in sworn statements and in interviews with The Washington Post that firm leaders had presided over a tradition of sexual “preying” on younger saleswomen at firm occasions. Multiple witnesses informed attorneys that they noticed Light watching and becoming a member of nude and partially undressed feminine staff in a swimming pool at one of the corporate’s annual conferences of managers, in accordance with the 2013 submitting.

The firm has stated the allegations haven’t any benefit and a firm chairman in March dismissed the accusations within the sworn statements, calling them a “purported parallel universe.” The firm has in current months requested a former federal decide to evaluation firm “policies and practices regarding equal opportunity and workplace expectations” and established a particular committee targeted on “respect in the workplace,” the corporate stated.

Asked if the chief change was associated to the class-action case, firm spokesman David A. Bouffard stated Monday that Light, 55, had determined to retire “due to his need to address his health issues.”

The firm canceled an investor assembly in early June as a consequence of Light’s health issues, and he has “required multiple hospitalizations and a couple of surgical procedures” for his situation, Bouffard stated. The situation is critical however not life-threatening, he added, and “it will require time and attention to ensure complete recovery.” Bouffard didn’t supply additional particulars about the situation.

The firm declined to make Drosos or Light out there for remark. Light stated in a press release launched by the corporate on Monday that “given the company’s positive direction and my need to address some health issues, the board and I agreed that it is a good time for a transition.”

Drosos previously served as president and chief government of Assurex Health, a “personalized medicine company” based in Ohio in 2006. Drosos stated in a press release that she is “committed to successfully executing our strategic priorities.” Bouffard stated the board “unanimously supported her selection and has complete confidence in her ability to drive the company forward and deliver value to our stakeholders.”

Light was a veteran of the jewellery big, and his father, Nathan Light, served as chief government of Sterling Jewelers for 20 years. Mark Light retired as chief government final Thursday, the identical day the board appointed Drosos to the place, firm filings present. The transfer is efficient at the top of this month.

Light earned about $7.four million in wage, inventory and bonuses in the newest fiscal yr, up from $2.four million in 2014. Company filings present that his retirement package deal will embrace a full yr of wage and a lump sum of his annual bonus, in addition to $200,000 in health advantages, $975,000 on the second and third anniversaries of his retirement, $50,000 for retirement-planning providers, and $50,000 for “legal fees incurred in connection” together with his retirement settlement.

Signet is the world’s largest diamond-jeweler retailer and runs almost three,600 Kay, Jared and Zales jewellery shops around the globe. But weakening jewellery demand in current months has led to a decline in income.

The $four billion firm’s inventory has plunged by greater than one-third over the previous yr, together with a steep drop following a Post report in February about the previous staff’ sworn statements. The firm’s shares slid about 1 % in buying and selling Monday morning.

Light’s retirement announcement follows a quantity of high-ranking exits this yr. In May, a Signet government vice chairman, Stuart Lee, and a senior vice chairman, Clark McEwen, introduced their retirements. Last month, Signet’s chief operations officer, Bryan Morgan, resigned on account of “violations of company policy unrelated to financial matters,” the corporate stated in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The class-action case, first filed in 2008, is ongoing and consists of present and former feminine staff of the corporate nationwide. Because the case is in personal arbitration, most filings haven’t been publicly launched. A trial is scheduled for early subsequent yr.

Joseph M. Sellers, a companion at the Cohen Milstein regulation agency and lead counsel for the case, stated on Monday that legal professionals proceed to listen to from women who’ve complained of mistreatment within the firm.

“We look forward to the new CEO making long-needed improvements in the treatment of women in the workplace,” Sellers stated.

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