Nike Denies Female Discrimination Lawsuit Amid Upcoming International Women’s Day

Nike Denies Female Discrimination Lawsuit Amid Upcoming International Women’s Day

News by Marge Serrano
Published: January 23, 2023

The message in Nike's 2020 International Women's Day advertisement and the company's 5-year discovery fight demonstrates a glaring contrast to Nike's stance on gender discrimination. 

"One day, we won’t need a day to celebrate how far we’ve come,” the 2020 inspirational video states, "We won’t need a day to prove we’re just as strong and fast and skilled." 

Meanwhile, 14 plaintiffs filed lawsuits against Nike about alleged sexual harassment and discrimination in the form of an $11,000 per year pay gap and unequal representation of both genders in higher positions. 

A 2018 Memo from Nike reveals that while they have a balanced gender distribution in terms of workforce totality, supervisors comprise only 41% females, while leadership is only 36% females. 

Despite these numbers, former Nike Chief Human Resource Officer David Ayre still claimed that the company had almost 99% gender equity before retiring. 

Plaintiffs are demanding Nike release crucial documents regarding Ayre and Trevor Edwards, the former successor to Nike Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Parker, who also suddenly retired. 

So far, Nike has provided six documents on Ayre and 15 papers on Edwards after being obliged by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jolie Russo. 

Plaintiffs assert that the available documents do not contain relevant data such as reasons for any promotions, their sudden resignation, or their disciplinary history. 

But a Nike Attorney claimed that there is no more data on Ayre or Edwards and that “The court cannot order a party to produce documents that don’t exist." 

History of Female Employee Discrimination 

Nike also asserted that it had done its part to the case by sharing an overwhelming amount of 995,000 pages of data for almost 13,400 employees to the public. 

The data only became accessible after Russo partially allowed access to the data when media outlets The Oregonian, Insider, and the Portland Business Journal clamored for this move as a violation of the First Amendment. 

Initially, Russo kept it restricted, citing his desire to protect the witnesses from “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense." 

Apart from Ayre and Edwards, almost a dozen managers suddenly retrenched or voluntarily resigned on Nike’s Portland-area campus. 

This ongoing discovery case was triggered by the Starfish survey, a backdoor initiative of Nike female employees who wanted better treatment, especially for their younger colleagues in the workplace. 

The brand currently denies the allegations against their employees, stating that "any such alleged conduct, if any: (1) was outside the course and scope of those employees’ employment; (2) was not condoned by Nike; and/or (3) was undertaken without the knowledge or consent of Nike.” 

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