Ex-Nike employees sue company, alleging unequal compensation

Nike store

Four women who used to work for Nike have filed a federal lawsuit against the sporting goods giant, alleging it violated state and federal equal-pay laws and fostered a work environment that allowed sexual harassment.

The federal suit, filed in Nike's home state of OR, seeks class-action status and alleges that Nike violated the Equal Pay Act.

Nike, based near Portland, responded to the controversy by ousting at least 11 executives earlier this year.

The suit says Cahill ultimately left because she was paid $20,000 less in 2017 than a male colleague doing much the same work.

The women want the court to order Nike to institute policies that provide equal opportunity for employees regardless of gender, and to "eradicate the effects of their past and present unlawful employment practices".

"At Nike, the numbers tell a story of a company where women are devalued and demeaned", the lawsuit alleges. Three marketers, such as Simon Pestridge, global VP of marketing for performance categories, and Tommy Kain, director of sports marketing, also left Nike, as did Daniel Tawiah, who had been VP of global digital brand innovation.

Nike has not issued a statement on the matter.

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The suit was filed by Kelly Cahill, who had worked for Nike for more than three years until July 2017 as a senior producer, and Sara Johnston, a nine-year-plus account service rep.

"We are committed to competitive pay and benefits for our employees", a Nike spokeswoman said.

CEO Mark Parker reportedly apologized to the company's employees over how it handled allegations of workplace misconduct.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Nike. Last month, the company's top human-resources executive Monique Matheson acknowledged that Nike had failed to promote enough women. She resigned a year ago because of "the hostile work environment, HR's ineffective response to her complaints, and the lack of promotion opportunities because of her gender", according to the lawsuit.

An unnamed Nike executive to whom Johnston reported sexually propositioned her several times in messages, sent her a nude photograph of himself and then retaliated against her, blaming Johnston for work-related problems when she rebuffed his advances, according to the complaint. According to the suit, they also filed official complaints that other female employees were harassed. The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status.

"On information and belief, he was able to negotiate a higher starting salary even though I had more relevant experience and higher-level credentials".

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