Lawsuit: Nike Accused of Gender Discrimination by Ex-Female Employees

Nike store

Nike store

"For many women at Nike, the company hierarchy is an unclimbable pyramid - the more senior the job title, the smaller the percentage of women ..."

"At Nike, the numbers tell a story of a company where women are devalued and demeaned", the lawsuit alleges.

A statement says Nike opposes discrimination in any form.

Meanwhile, Cahill's complaints call out a co-worker by name-former vice president of global brand digital marketing innovation Daniel Tawiah, who left the company in April.

The former employees, Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, allege that the company paid them less than male colleagues for equal work and passed them over for promotions due to their gender.

The suit doesn't ask for specific damages, but instead for Nike to implement fair pay practices throughout the organization.

According to the Journal, at least 11 executives have left Nike since March.

Since then, Nike has acknowledged issues in its diversity hiring. Former brand strategist Sara Johnston and stylist Kelly Cahill have taken up the mantle for others subjected to similar conditions, below them in the pecking order. "The vast majority of Nike employees live by our values of dignity and respect for others", a spokesperson for the brand said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

CEO Mark Parker reportedly apologized to the company's employees over how it handled allegations of workplace misconduct. The lawsuit claims that Nike is at fault for failing to "assure a non-hostile work environment that provided equal opportunity".

Nike also announced pay increases for 7,000 employees last month, in what the company described as an effort to "support a culture in which employees feel included and empowered".

Johnston, who worked at the company for over a decade, said that she was paid $3,000 less than a male employee when she started out in a junior role at the company in 2008, despite trying to negotiate a higher salary at hire. "For a woman to succeed at Nike, she must far outshine her male counterparts". According to the suit, they also filed official complaints that other female employees were harassed.

The class is composed of women who said they were victims of discrimination and harassment while working for the company.

Johnston alleges that following a Nike party in 2015, she received inappropriate messages from a male colleague, one with whom she had to work with regularly and was key in deciding her performance reviews.