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15 August 2018

Nike under increased scrutiny as discrimination class action suit launched

Brand image and reality clash as class action suit launched by two former women employees claim discrimination and harassment.


Activewear-as-fashion is making a huge splash in the fashion world, and the Nike City Ready line is successfully pitching at modern women who want to wear the same clothes to the gym, the office and out on the town. However, this positive image of the modern women has been undermined as law firms file a sex discrimination federal class and collective action against Nike.

Hostile to women

The two plaintiffs of the lawsuit, Sara Johnston and Kelly Cahill, said they were paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same job. Ms Johnston also claimed in the suit that a male colleague had sent her nude photographs of himself, and both plaintiffs assert women were subjected to widespread harassment on the job, including being called ‘dykes’ on more than one occasion while at work. Law firms Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, Ackermann & Tilajef PC, India Lin Bodien attorney at law, and, Markowitz Herbold PC filed a gender discrimination suit at the US District Court in Portland, Oregon. The suit alleges that Nike fails to offer women pay and promotions equal to their male counterparts and fosters a work environment that is hostile to women.  Plaintiffs, on behalf of a proposed class and collective of female employees at Nike Headquarters, seek full relief for women who have suffered from Nike’s discriminatory policies and practices, including just compensation, real opportunities for advancement, and systems that eliminate gender bias and sexual harassment. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs believe there are potentially hundreds of women covered by the class action.

Under scrutiny

A Nike spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement to the Wall Street Journal, responded ‘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.’ Nike general counsel have been kept busy lately, as the firm has come under increased scrutiny after several leading executives left the company amid reports of a problematic work culture. The Wall Street Journal reported at least 11 executives have left Nike since March, and The New York Times published an investigation based on interviews with 50 current and former employees, who highlighted instances of alleged sexism and gender discrimination at the company.

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