Lawsuit: Nike Accused of Gender Discrimination by Ex-Female Employees

Nike CEO Mark Parker
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Ex-female employees at Nike filed a lawsuit Thursday, accusing the athletic apparel giant of gender discrimination “with respect to pay, promotions, and conditions of employment.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by ex-staffers Sara Johnston and Kelly Cahill, reportedly seeks class-action status.

“Women’s career trajectories are blunted because they are marginalized and passed over for promotions. Nike judges women more harshly than men, which means lower salaries, smaller bonuses, and fewer stock options,” reads the complaint. “Women’s complaints to human resources about discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault, are ignored or mishandled.”

Cahill, currently an employee of Adidas, contends Nike failed to act after she raised concerns of discrimination with the human resources department. “For many women at Nike, the company hierarchy is an unclimbable pyramid – the more senior the job title, the smaller the percentage of women,” according to the lawsuit. “Women’s career trajectories are impacted because they are marginalized and passed over for promotions.”

Nike has not issued a statement on the matter.

In March, the Beaverton, Oregon-based corporation faced a #MeToo moment of its own after CEO Mark Parker increased the compensation of then-President Trevor Edwards, who is accused of facilitating a “hostile work environment,” for women. Following an outcry from female employees, Nike announced Edwards would be departing from the company and later fired 11 other executives.

In May, Parker apologized to employees at an all-staff meeting for failing to address growing concerns of gender discrimination.

“Throughout all of this change, we — and I — missed something,” he said. “While many of us feel like we’re treated with respect at Nike, that wasn’t the case in all teams. And if all of our teammates don’t see the same opportunities, we just can’t accept that.”

“Let’s move towards that future,” added Parker. “I’m in 100 (percent), and I’m counting on you to be all-in too.”

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