Four women who used to work for Nike filed a federal lawsuit alleging the company breached state and U.S. equal-pay laws and fostered a work environment that allowed sexual harassment. At least 11 executives have left the company in recent months.
Cahill, who was formerly a director at Nike, said in the suit that one male colleague was paid $20,000 more than her for an equivalent role.
The four plaintiffs are seeking back pay for lost compensation and equity distribution, and punitive damages as well as a permanent injunction against Nike from "engaging in policies, patterns and/or practices that discriminate" because of gender.
"Nike opposes discrimination of any type and has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. 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. "We are not commenting on pending litigation". "For many women at Nike, the company hierarchy is an unclimbable pyramid-the more senior the job title, the smaller the percentage of women".
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".
Kelly Cahill, who worked for Nike for four years as a director, and Sara Johnston, who was there for nine years, filed the complaint and several other women have joined the lawsuit.
Specifically, Johnston says she resigned after discovering she was paid less and was offered fewer promotions than her male colleagues who performed comparable work.
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 made a decision to quit, according to the suit. "For a woman to succeed at Nike, she must far outshine her male counterparts".
Cahill and other women complained to HR about the employee, but he was promoted in 2017, according to the suit.
She says that she told him to stop sending her any messages not related to work, but that he kept doing it, and later refused to attend meetings she organized at work. The Wall Street Journal reported he was forced to leave Nike in April. Johnston left because she'd been passed over multiple times for a promotion, the complaint alleges. "Women's complaints to human resources about discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault, are ignored or mishandled". Her superiors did not allow her to move positions to avoid her harasser, the lawsuit said.
"On information and belief, he was able to negotiate a higher starting salary even though I had more relevant experience and higher-level credentials".