OREGON – A group of women who were formerly employed by Nike Inc. are suing the company over claims that it discriminated against women with respect to pay, promotions, and conditions of employment. The lawsuit, filed at the US District Court in Portland, claims Nike fostered a hostile workplace and tolerated or ignored sexual assault.
Since complaints first came to light in March, Nike has restructured its leadership team and offered pay raises to 7,000 employees. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs believe there are potentially hundreds of women covered by the class action.
The complaint alleges that Nike’s corporate culture devalues and demeans its female employees. The suit also claims that for years Nike has engaged in practices that have perpetuated gender-based pay disparities, such as hiring women at lower salaries than men, discriminating during the performance review process, and promoting women less frequently than male employees doing substantially similar work. The plaintiffs also allege a culture of sexual harassment at Nike.
“The numbers don’t lie. On a global scale, currently 77 per cent of Nike’s leadership team are men; 71 per cent of its vice presidents are men; and 62 per cent of its directors and senior directors are men,” says Plaintiffs’ attorney Laura Salerno Owens. “I’ve represented more than 50 Nike employees and their experiences have been consistent with the plaintiffs’. The more senior the job title, the smaller the percentage of women.”
“The way Nike marginalizes women at its headquarters is completely contrary to how it portrays itself to its customers as valuing women in sports and the importance of providing equal opportunity to play,” added Plaintiffs’ attorney Byron Goldstein of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho. “My firm has litigated some of the largest gender discrimination class actions, and we have seen that when companies take an opportunity like this to level the playing field for women in its workforce, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
We contacted Nike for comment. A spokesperson told us: “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.”