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Nike hit with gender discrimination lawsuit

Phil Knight on Nike growth, harassment claims
Phil Knight on Nike growth, "shock" of harassment claims against execs 07:02

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 suit was filed Thursday in Portland, The Oregonian reports, and is among the first to hit Nike following complaints about alleged pay disparities and bad managers made public earlier this year. Nike in this spring ousted at least 11 executives in connection with the accusations of inappropriate behavior. 

Laura Salerno Owens, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs, said Nike continues to have a "good-old-boys culture" in which women enter the company with lower pay, and receive smaller raises and bonuses.

"I think Nike wants to say that 'Just a couple people were responsible for the problem and we've gotten rid of them.' But we know that's certainly not the case," Owens said.  

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages and a court order requiring Nike to pay its employees fairly without regard to gender.

Nike officials declined comment on the lawsuit to The Oregonian and did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

Plaintiff Kelly Cahill worked for Nike for four years, much of that time as a brand marketing director for She claimed in the lawsuit that she was paid $20,000 a year less in 2017 than a male co-worker doing much the same job.

She said she filed four complaints against her boss, one of the 11 executives who left the company last spring. Nike's human resources department took no action, the suit alleges. Cahill quit and went to work for Adidas.

Sara Johnston alleges that a male co-worker made sexual advances and retaliated when she rejected his propositions. She complained to her boss in early 2016.

"In response, one of the directors said, in effect, that Nike has a culture that revolves around alcohol, that Ms. Johnston should let the incidents go," according to the lawsuit.

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The situation escalated after Johnston claims she learned the same co-worker was propositioning other women and had groped another.

She again tried to lodge a complaint with human resources but the department took no action and the male co-worker was promoted to a position where he would work more closely with Johnston, who decided to quit, according to the suit.

The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Samantha Phillips and Tracee Cheng.

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