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Female Nike Employees Allege Details of Sexual Harassment, Discrimination in Newly Unsealed Documents

New details are coming to light in the midst of Nike’s ongoing gender discrimination suit.

A series of documents highlighting more details about the allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment at Nike has been unsealed to the public, following a legal push from various publications with an interest in covering the news.

The documents, which include thousands of pages of records of handwritten and typed surveys and interviews, allege a culture of harassment and intimidation for female employees working in what some described as Nike’s “boy’s club.” The initial gender discrimination lawsuit was filed in 2018, less than four months after the The New York Times reported on the survey, which was delivered to then-CEO Mark Parker.

FN has reached out to Nike for comment.

One survey respondent said a male employee once told her to dress “sexier” and “show some skin,” though she said she did not report it at the time because she felt “afraid and intimidated.” Another survey response described seeing a higher-ranking male employee receiving oral sex from a lower ranked female employee on campus. And another respondent detailed other instances of harassment, including “sloppy drunk” men “putting their arms around” waitresses or female co-workers while traveling for work.

“Nike is a boy’s club,” this respondent alleged. “Females at this company have felt very little power to change a culture and environment that has been and continues to be disrespectful to women.”

The suit, which is ongoing, was recently denied a motion to be certified as a class action suit but still represents the plaintiffs listed in the complaint: Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, both of whom resigned from their roles in 2017. 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 suit, 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. They also alleged that Nike’s HR department failed to adequately address their grievances after they brought complaints internally.

While the newly unsealed documents add color to the allegations suggested in the suit, they are redacted in some instances to exclude names of executives and employees accused of the problematic behavior as well as the accusers.

In April 2018, Nike admitted that it had fallen short in promoting women and people of color, and in July, it announced a plan to raise salaries for 10% of its workforce to help correct pay inequity.

Since then, Nike has made more efforts to improve female leadership at the top levels. In its 2021 Impact Report, Nike revealed that it increased representation of women globally throughout the company to 50.4%, and has grown the number of women at the director level and above globally to 43%.

Notably, three women now lead the company’s geographic regions — Sarah Mensah, VP/GM of North America; Amy Montagne, VP/GM of Asia Pacific and Latin America; and Angelo Dong, VP/GM of Greater China. And Heidi O’Neill was named as its first female president of Nike Consumer and Marketplace in April 2020.

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