Nike Discrimination Lawsuit Details Pay Disparity, Sexual Harassment, & More

  • 5,000+ pages of records were unsealed in a gender discrimination lawsuit against Nike from 2018 
  • The records include anecdotes from graphic employee surveys
  • Those surveyed called Nike a “boys’ club” and described inappropriate sexual behavior 

Court documents from an ongoing 2018 gender discrimination lawsuit against Nike have been made public last week.

The documents were made public after a successful court challenge by Business Insider, The Oregonian, and the Portland Business Journal.

In 2018, four Nike employees filed a lawsuit against the company as they claim they were subject to gender discrimination and sexual harassment. According to the recently unsealed court documents, Nike employees had an alleged gender pay gap of $11,000 between 2015 and 2019.

The alleged pay gap was calculated by an expert witness for plaintiffs who used data provided by Nike during the discovery phase of the lawsuit.

According to Business Insider, plaintiffs allege the calculation shows women on average were paid less “even though women had the same or better performance ratings, educational background, and work experience.”

Since 2018, Nike has made efforts to close the pay gap.

The company raised salaries for more than 7,000 employees and changed how it awards annual bonuses to its global staff in an attempt to address concerns about pay equity and corporate culture, per CNBC.

Recently, Nike said it has achieved 100% pay parity.

In addition to the pay disparity, the lawsuit details sexual harassment incidents and a toxic culture for women.

Per Business Insider, several respondents said the following in the Starfish survey:

  • One respondent wrote that she had been told by male coworkers to “dress sexier” and “show some skin” at the office: “Maybe if you dressed nicer I would be on time. Take that baggy jacket off and show some skin.” 
  • A second respondent described certain executives as “well-known philanderers with lower-level employees whom they exert influence and power over.”
  • A third wrote that she caught a male executive receiving oral sex from a lower-ranking female in the campus gym.
  • A fourth alleged “sloppy drunk” men put their arms around female coworkers on work travel, and others asked female subordinates to “work dinners” in hopes of sleeping with them.
  • A fifth respondent relayed a story about a male manager saying, “No one gives a fuck about female empowerment.” 
  • One described Nike as “a giant men’s sports team, where favoritism prevails and females couldn’t possibly play in the sandbox.” 
  • Another respondent claimed that a manager “phoned in a favor” to get away with calling a subordinate a “bitch.”
  • Numerous respondents described the company as a “boys’ club.”
  • “Females at this company have felt very little power to change a culture and environment that has been and continues to be disrespectful to women,” another respondent wrote.

Then-Nike CEO Mark Parker, the company’s current executive chairman, received the survey on March 5, 2018, which led to multiple stories and then sweeping efforts by the company in response to Nike’s alleged “boys’ club” culture, Business Insider reports. 

Shortly after receiving the survey results, Parker issued a company-wide statement.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve become aware of reports occurring within our organization that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect, and empowerment,” Parker said.

At least 11 executives left Nike after the surveys were given to Parker, according to Business Insider. The company has made progress on pay equity and more women have become vice presidents. Additionally, in the 2018 fiscal year, 36% of Nike’s vice presidents were women and has since climbed to 43% with a goal of 45% within three years, according to the company.

Since the lawsuit’s emergence, Nike has repeatedly attempted to keep the documents sealed. However, the recent court ruling has opened the floodgates to the company’s dark & not-so-distant past.

We agree with the court’s ruling. In a class action impacting thousands of Oregonians, the public has a right to view the evidence.

Nike should not be able to hide statistics evidencing Nike’s discriminatory practices. Nor should Nike be able to hide that it stopped its promotion practice study, especially when it touted that study publicly.

As the court noted, ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ — the only way to truly achieve justice is to have a transparent and open examination of Nike’s treatment of women in the workplace.”

Laura Salerno Owens, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Owens claims that Nike employees continue to contact here with discrimination allegations as recently as last week, per Business Insider.

The lawsuit’s saga continues as the 14 plaintiffs want a class of roughly 5,000 female Nike employees certified. The class action conversion, however, has been rejected. An appeal is expected.

Keep it locked on Nice Kicks as the lawsuit & story develops.

Do you work at Nike or have a tip to share? Contact the editor Luis Torres via email ( 

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