This jewelry brand's stock plummets after sexual harassment allegations surface

Mark Light, chief executive officer of Signet Jewelers Ltd
Chris Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Light, chief executive officer of Signet Jewelers Ltd

Shares of Signet Jewelers closed down more than 12 percent Tuesday on a report that some Sterling Jewelers' employees are claiming sexual harassment and discrimination within the workplace.

The stock was halted during late morning trade, pending the release of material news from the company. Shares began trading again shortly after noon Eastern Standard (ET) Time, after Signet released a statement saying media reports had "mischaracterized arbitration."

Sterling Jewelers is owned by Signet, the largest specialty jewelry retailer in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, with about 3,600 stores under brand names such as Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry, according to the company's website.

Hundreds of former Sterling Jewelers employees claim that the company's CEO and other company leaders ruled over a corporate culture that fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination, according to arbitration documents obtained by The Washington Post.

"These allegations are being publicized by claimants' counsel to present a distorted, negative image of the company," Signet Vice President David Bouffard said in a statement to NBC.

"They involve a very small number of individuals in a workforce of more than 84,000 during the class period, and many of the allegations go back decades. Complaints that were reported to the company were thoroughly investigated, and action was taken where appropriate," Bouffard said.

The arbitration was first filed in 2008 by more than a dozen women who accused the company of widespread gender discrimination, according to The Washington Post's report.

Signet Jewelers CEO Mark Light and other senior executives were among those accused of demanding sexual favors, the paper reported.

Shares of Signet Jewelers have fallen more than 32 percent this year, after Tuesday's losses. Signet is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings next Thursday, March 9.

Signet year-to-date performance