Nike faces lawsuit over alleged gender discrimination of four women ex-employees

Four women who previously worked for Nike say that the firm violated equal pay laws. They also allege that the company fostered a work environment which allowed harassment to take place.

Nike, who hires over 74,000 employees around the world, said that they planned to make competitive pay adjustments to 10% of their employees.

The suit, which the women filed in Portland, is among the first to take place against Nike following numerous pay complaints against them. Additionally, complaints against bad managers was made public knowledge earlier this year. This resulted in Nike firing 11 of their executives.

The four women previously worked in the corporate headquarters. They claim that Nike violated the Equal Pay Act by discriminating in pay between male and female staff. They also ignored the rampant sexual harassment which went on while they worked there.

The women stated that they had complained to human resources managers for several years about demeaning conditions and treatment, as well as sexual harassment. Male supervisors had called them vulgar names and openly discussed their bodies, with one woman being called a ‘stupid bitch’. The women agreed that human resources had not taken them seriously and nothing ever changed.

The women were not satisfied with vague promises about changing conditions which never took place. They all felt that their careers were harmed because of the sexism which thrived in the company, particularly in the corporate headquarters.

The lawsuit follows in the footsteps of similar suits against Uber and Google against claims of sexism. The women demanded a court-ordered structural reform of hiring practices, to be supervised by a court-appointed monitor.

Nike top human resources executive Monique Matheson stated that Nike had in fact failed to promote enough women. She went on to say that Nike had outlined a plan to ‘create a culture of true inclusion’. A vital part of this plan included representation of people (both men and women) of colour.

Matheson added in her memo that while the company had discussed this point on numerous occasions before, and even tried to implement change, they had failed to make any significant changes. Hiring and promotions are simply not adapting to the changes as quickly as she would have liked.

Nike further claimed that when they discovered issues, they took immediate action. They had acted speedily after the company had received complaints of inappropriate behaviour which had come to light in March.

Chief executive Mark Parker said that Nike is laser-focused on making the company a more inclusive workplace, and to accelerate the diverse representation in leadership areas.

Parker went on to confirm that Nike would carry out pay adjustments to employees working around the world.

Attorney Laura Salerno Owens said on behalf of the four women that Nike still has an ‘old boy’ network and culture whereby women enter the company at a lower pay scale than men. They receive smaller raises and bonuses.

Women in the company are ranked more harshly than their male colleagues, and therefore get smaller raises and bonuses.

Nike has received a court order requiring them to pay employees fairly without regard to gender, while the plaintiffs seek an unspecified amount for monetary damages.

Nike has declined to discuss or even comment on the lawsuit.

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