By Michelle Graff
Akron, Ohio--Signet Jewelers Ltd. has followed through with its pledge to appoint an independent consultant to review its policies and practices concerning equal opportunity and sexual harassment prevention, training and non-retaliation.

The retailer announced Wednesday that former federal Judge Barbara S. Jones would be conducting a “thorough review.”

20170420 Judge JonesFormer U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones
She was appointed by its new Respect in the Workplace board committee, which is comprised of the company’s four female directors and chaired by Helen McCluskey, the former CEO of clothing company The Warnaco Group.

The board committee and Jones’s appointment are two of the steps Signet is taking to “reaffirm (its) commitment to equal opportunity” after damaging documents were released in the long-standing, ongoing class-action arbitration that accuses the company of pay and promotion discrimination.

While the arbitration itself does not contain any allegations of sexual harassment, the documents--which remained under seal for years--paint a troubling portrait of a company where women were objectified and subjected to sexual harassment with little or no recourse.

The Washington Post detailed the claims in the documents in a lengthy article that ran in late February, which led to widespread public backlash and sent Signet’s stock price plummeting.

Following the Post’s story, Signet board Chairman Todd Stitzer took the lead on the company’s next earnings call--an unusual move, as normally it’s CEO Mark Light who is the highest-ranking executive on the call--and announced the formation of the Respect committee, the plan to appoint the independent consultant, and the establishment of an independent Ombudsperson office where employees can go to report concerns.

As of Wednesday, the committee was still “exploring” the creation of the Ombudsperson office, a Signet spokesman said.

A California native and graduate of Temple University’s law school, Jones spent 16 years as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after being appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Prior to that, she worked as a prosecutor trying cases involving organized crime and racketeering in New York City, and taught law at Fordham University and New York University.

Jones retired from the bench in 2013 and went into private practice. She currently is a partner at Bracewell LLP.

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