Four former employees of Nike are suing the company for alleged gender discrimination. They filed a class-action lawsuit this past Thursday.
The suit alleges the athletic apparel company both pays and promotes women less than their male employees. They also foster a hostile workplace environment for women. This accusation is only the latest in a series about the corporate culture of Nike.
The lawsuit also mentions Nike’s unwillingness to punish male workers for any verbal or sexual harassment towards women coworkers. Plaintiffs put the problematic gender discrimination policies to the lack of female leadership at the top.
Kelly Cahill, Samantha Phillips, Tracee Cheng, and Sarah Johnston, the plaintiffs, say their pay was significantly less than their male counterparts for an equivalent amount of work. They received fewer opportunities for promotions, and the HR department was mostly unresponsive to their complaints. The women have accused Nike of violating both the federal and state equal pay laws in addition to the Oregon Equality Act.
In a statement, Nike explained they oppose discrimination and professed their commitment to inclusion and diversity.
A Nike spokeswoman commented that the company is committed to competitive pay and benefits for their employees. She continued saying, the majority of the Nike employees live by these values and have respect for others.
The women suing the company, however, claim their gender hurt their careers.
Further Examples of Gender Discrimination Detailed in Lawsuit
The lawsuit reads that women’s careers are blunted due to the marginalization and because they are passed over for promotions. The company judges women harsher than men which amounts to lower salaries, fewer stock options, and smaller bonuses.
The lawsuit also mentions the sexual harassment problem in the company. Johnston worked there for nearly a decade. During her time there, a male coworker harassed her with nude pictures and propositions. He later mistreated Johnston when she rebuffed his advances.
Upon reporting the harassment, a director allegedly responded that she should be less sensitive to the messages and that she should expect more. Johnston also couldn’t change positions to avoid her harasser.
The lawsuit also mentions other instances of hostility for the women such as the discussion of a colleague’s breasts in an email and the use of vulgar names for women in the workplace.
Since the mass exodus of top executives in March from the company, Nike has acknowledged its problematic lack in diversity hiring. The HR chief sent a memo that admitted the company’s failure to promote and hire minorities and women for senior-level roles.