Nike scores critical win in sweeping gender discrimination lawsuit

Nike scores critical win in sweeping gender discrimination lawsuit
Nike world headquartersNatalie Behring/Getty Images
  • A judge has denied a motion to make a gender discrimination lawsuit against Nike a class action.
  • If approved, the lawsuit would have proceeded on behalf of nearly 5,000 female workers.

Nike has scored a major victory in an ongoing lawsuit that alleges widespread gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the sportswear company.

Federal magistrate judge Jolie A. Russo denied a motion to convert the lawsuit into a class action late Tuesday. If approved, the case would have proceeded on behalf of roughly 5,000 current and former female workers at the company. Now, it will proceed on behalf of 14 plaintiffs who voluntarily joined the case.

Motions for class action are considered pivotal moments in such lawsuits because they can dramatically increase the stakes.

The ruling was filed under seal, but an entry on the court docket notes Russo denied the motion. The judge also denied motions from both sides to exclude reports from expert witnesses who provided testimony about alleged pay disparities at the company.

Nike and plaintiffs have 14 days to file written objections to the rulings, then another 14 days to respond to objections.


The ruling to deny class certification also will be reviewed by another federal judge.

Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attorney for the company declined comment.

"We respectfully disagree with the denial of class certification and will appeal the ruling," said Laura Salerno Owens, Markowitz Herbold president and lead attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement to Insider. "The evidence shows that, as a result of Nike's policies, female employees were paid less and received fewer opportunities for promotion than male employees."

The lawsuit, filed in 2018, followed reporting about an alleged "boys' club" culture at Nike in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Documents unsealed last week, after a legal challenge by Insider, the Oregonian, and the Portland Business Journal, show plaintiffs allege Nike underpaid female workers $11,000 on average between 2015 and 2019.


In its motion against class certification earlier this year, Nike disputed the $11,000 alleged pay gap and argued "no glue" binds the "thousands of individualized claims" made by plaintiffs.

"The evidence shows that Nike is self-reflective, constantly strives to improve its culture, and takes seriously the experience of its employees, including women and other protected groups," Nike's lawyers argued in the company's motion against class certification.

In its motion against class certification, Nike's attorneys said they would move for summary judgment after the judge ruled on the motion for class certification, essentially meaning they'd ask a judge to decide the case.

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