Inside Nike's high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, where plaintiffs claim unequal pay and more thanks to a 'boys' club' culture

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Inside Nike's high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, where plaintiffs claim unequal pay and more thanks to a 'boys' club' culture
A "Do the right thing" sign at Nike's headquarters.Natalie Behring/Stringer/Getty Images
  • Former female Nike employees sued the company over alleged gender discrimination in 2018.
  • The case is one of the most high-profile cases filed in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
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In March 2018, the Wall Street Journal first reported on allegations of a "boys' club" culture at Nike.

Two former female Nike employees filed a potential class-action lawsuit against the company over alleged gender discrimination and sexual harassment less than six months later. Nike has repeatedly said it has zero tolerance for discrimination.

Fast forward to January 2022, plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, marking a critical stage in the lawsuit, which has become one of the most-watched corporate cases in the wake of the #MeToo movement. If successful, the case would proceed on behalf of roughly 5,000 women who have worked at Nike's headquarters since October 2017, instead of the 14 plaintiffs named currently.

The case is proceeding under a protective order, which means numerous documents remain sealed. In April, Insider, the Oregonian, and the Portland Business Journal intervened in the lawsuit in an effort to get more of the case unsealed. Nike has so far unsealed its motion against class certification and some supporting documents.

A ruling on the motion for class certification and Insider's motion to unseal the lawsuit could come as early as June.

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Here's a rundown of the history of Nike's gender discrimination lawsuit:

Nike infuriated employees and helped spark a lawsuit with a 'tone-deaf' declaration about pay equity. Here's the leaked memo that drew so much scorn.

A catalyst of the lawsuit, Nike's top human resources official proclaimed victory on pay equity in a company-wide email in April 2017, saying women earned 99.6% of what men earned. The self-congratulatory tone of the email spurred an independent survey of pay practices that ultimately landed on the desk of then-CEO Mark Parker.

Nike is fighting to keep a massive gender-discrimination case from going forward. 3 lawyers walked us through what's at stake.

Motions for class certification are a "central moment" in such cases. Three lawyers explained the process and why companies like Nike fight so hard to defeat them.

Nike files motion to keep sensitive records in sweeping gender discrimination lawsuit sealed

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In March 2022, Nike said in a legal filing it was willing to make the "overwhelming majority" of the lawsuit public, but it wanted several other records to remain sealed, including a plaintiffs' analysis of aggregate pay shortfalls and documents about three former employees who were the subject of complaints.

Nike pay and HR practices coming to light as part of lawsuit alleging gender discrimination

Nike unsealed more than 700 pages of records at the end of March that showed the company will likely argue in court that individual hiring managers make decisions about pay, therefore any disparities are isolated, not systemic.

Nike unseals internal memos and human-resource documents as it gears up to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination

In late April, Nike also unsealed its motion against class certification. The motion, and supporting documents, give the fullest picture yet of Nike's internal response to the allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

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Insider among publications working to unseal records in Nike's gender discrimination lawsuit

Insider, the Oregonian, and the Portland Business Journal have intervened in the lawsuit in an effort to get more of the case unsealed. Hundreds of court filings, including corporate records and witness testimony, remain off limits to the public. The judge is expected to rule on the motion in June.

Do you work at Nike or have insight to share? Contact reporter Matthew Kish via the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-971-319-3830) or email (mkish@insider.com). Check out Insider's source guide for other tips on sharing information securely.

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