Nike Hit With Lawsuit for ‘Intentionally and Willfully’ Discriminating Against Women

Update: Nike Responds With Statement (Aug. 10; 3 p.m. ET)

In response to an email inquiry, a spokesperson provided FN with the following statement:

“Nike opposes discrimination of any type and has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are committed to competitive pay and benefits for our employees. The vast majority of Nike employees live by our values of dignity and respect for others.”

What We Reported Earlier

Nike‘s internal troubles aren’t over yet.

Two former employees filed a lawsuit against the sportswear giant on Thursday alleging that it “intentionally and willfully” discriminated against women with regard to pay and promotions, and that its majority-male executives fostered a hostile work environment at its Portland, Ore., headquarters.

The plaintiffs, Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, resigned from their roles in July and November 2017, respectively. Cahill had worked as a communications director at the company for close to four years, while Johnston had been employed as an analyst for around a decade.

According to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon, both quit because they were being paid less than their male colleagues for substantially similar work and purportedly had fewer promotion opportunities. Further, they alleged, Nike’s HR department failed to adequately address their grievances after they brought complaints internally. (FN has reached out to Nike for comment on the allegations.)

The lawsuit comes less than four months after an exposé in The New York Times described a “toxic” boys’ club culture, allegedly prompted by an anonymous internal survey conducted by a group of female employees that addressed sexual harassment, demeaning comments, unfair treatment and other misconduct, which they delivered to CEO Mark Parker.

The investigation has since led to the ousting of at least 11 executives and a reckoning among those remaining. This spring, Nike admitted that it had fallen short in promoting women and people of color, and just last month, it said that it would raise salaries for 10 percent of its workforce to help correct pay inequity.

If a judge grants the class- and collective-action status sought by the plaintiffs, the lawsuit could cover more than 500 employees, their lawyers said. Cahill and Johnston seek reinstatement at the company and backpay.

“At Nike, the numbers tell a story of a company where women are devalued and demeaned,” the complaint states. “For many women at Nike, the company hierarchy is an unclimbable pyramid — the more senior the job title, the smaller the percentage of women … For a woman to succeed at Nike, she must far outshine her male counterparts.”

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