Ex-Nike employees sue company, alleging unequal compensation

    (Photo: Phillip Pessar / CC BY 2.0)

    PORTLAND, Ore. – Four former Nike employees filed a class-action lawsuit against the sportswear company Thursday, alleging the company does not provided equal pay or advancement opportunities for female employees.

    KATU News confirms this is among the first to hit the company following complaints about alleged pay disparities and bad managers public earlier this year.

    Nike responded by ousting at least 11 executives in March and April.

    The former employees, Kelly Cahill, Sara Johnston, Samantha Phillips and Tracee Cheng. are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They’re accusing Nike of violating the Federal Equal Pay Act, Oregon Equal Pay Act and Oregon Equality Act. They say Nike pays women lower salaries than men in their same positions, and offers women smaller bonuses and fewer stock options. They say women’s complaints to human resources about discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault, are ignored or mishandled.

    "H-R wouldn't do anything," said attorney Laura Salerno Owens, who is part of one Portland law firm representing the women. "Or if it was egregious enough, maybe they would pay you to be quiet and you would have to sign a confidentiality agreement, severance agreement and waive any claims."

    The plaintiffs did not specify any monetary damages. Instead, they’re asking for a court order to ban Nike from discriminating against its employees because of their gender and provide equal employment and payment opportunities for all employees.

    "It's unacceptable for any company - but particularly for a company of Nike's stature - and unacceptable at any time. But particularly in today's day and age and particularly in the great state of Oregon, you know, we can do better and we deserve better," said Salerno Owens.

    In March, Nike's president, Trevor Edwards, resigned amid a report of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

    Soon after, seven more Nike executives left the company in April and May.

    Nike has anywhere from three weeks to two months to file a response to the lawsuit.

    Nike released a statement on Friday, but did not comment on the pending litigation. Read it in full below:

    "Nike opposes discrimination of any type and has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are committed to competitive pay and benefits for our employees. The vast majority of Nike employees live by our values of dignity and respect for others."

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