By Michelle Graff
New York--Sterling Jewelers Inc. is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider the decision it handed down earlier this fall that revived the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s gender discrimination lawsuit against it.

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the EEOC’s favor in September, stating that a lower court had erred in throwing out the case and remanding it to U.S. District Court for further proceedings.

On Friday, Sterling filed a petition asking the panel to rehear the case and also requesting an en banc review of the decision. An en banc review is one in which a case is heard before all judges of a court; the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has 13 active and nine senior judges.

In its 32-page petition, the specialty jeweler reiterates the point that it has made all along: that the EEOC did not conduct a thorough enough investigation of its employment practices to warrant it filing suit on behalf of more than 40,000 women who work, or worked, at Sterling-owned stores across the country.

Sterling asserts that the lower court was right to throw out the case and asks the panel and the court to rehear the issues and vacate the panel’s opinion.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit against Sterling in September 2008 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

The EEOC alleges that Sterling exhibited a nationwide practice of paying women less and passing them over for promotions in favor of male employees.

In March 2014, U.S. District Court in Buffalo adopted a magistrate’s judge recommendation that the case be dismissed because the EEOC failed to prove it had conducted a thorough, nationwide pre-suit investigation of Sterling’s employment practices before it filed the lawsuit.

The EEOC appealed that ruling and won, with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals remanding the case to the district court for further proceedings.

When asked about its decision to petition for a full-panel review, Sterling parent company Signet Jewelers Ltd. provided the following statement: “We have taken the allegations of pay and promotions discrimination raised in the EEOC case seriously and investigated them thoroughly; they are not substantiated by the facts and do not reflect the culture of our company. We will continue to defend the company against these unjustified legal claims, which misrepresent our deep commitment to, and history of, equal opportunity.”

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