Nike has been hit with a discrimination lawsuit that alleges it pays and promotes women less than their male peers, the latest accusations to take aim at the sneaker giant's corporate environment.
The class-action suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, by two former employees, Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, who say that they endured a hostile work culture at Nike and were paid less and had fewer opportunities than their male colleagues despite a comparable performance. The suit also accuses the company of failing to address sexual harassment and other complaints from female workers.
"Women’s career trajectories are blunted because they are marginalized and passed over for promotions,'' the complaint says. "Nike judges women more harshly than men, which means lower salaries, smaller bonuses, and fewer stock options....Male bad behavior is rarely penalized. For a woman to succeed at Nike, she must far outshine her male counterparts."
In a statement, Nike said that it "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.''
Roughly a year after the launch of the #MeToo movement, the class action suit casts a harsh spotlight on Nike, which has already been roiled by charges that its top leadership ignored or helped exacerbate a culture that is hostile and demeaning to women.
Nike brand president Trevor Edwards and Jayme Martin, Nike's vice president and general manager of global categories, resigned in March due to what company chairman and CEO Mark Parker said were “behavioral issues that are inconsistent with Nike's values.”
News reports at the time said that Edwards and Martin had protected male staffers accused of belittling women and foreign-born employees.
Last month, Nike said that it would raise the pay of roughly 10 percent of its staff, "across all levels, geographies, functions and brands.'' The company said that it will also shift the way it hands out annual bonuses, basing the rewards mostly on how well the entire company performs instead of its previous formula that focused on a combination of individual performance along with that of a team and the entire corporation.
CNBC, citing an internal memo, said the salary hikes were designed so staffers doing the same job were paid equally.
But the suit calls for much more to be done, including a court order mandating that Nike create and implement "reliable'' standards for judging performance and deciding how much employees should be paid and whether they deserve promotions. The complaint also seeks damages and for