2 former employees are suing Nike over alleged pay discrimination at the company

Nike's workplace culture has faced intense scrutiny in recent months.

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Nike’s workplace culture has faced intense scrutiny in recent months.
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Getty/Natalie Behring

  • Nike is being sued by two female ex-employees who claim that they were discriminated against while working for the company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
  • The news comes just months after the departure of several leading executives and a probe into alleged improper behavior by employees.
  • The two women claim that they were paid less than their male colleagues and were not promoted fairly.

Nike is facing a lawsuit from two former employees who claim that they were discriminated against during their time at the company.

In a court case filed on Thursday in the US District Court in Portland, Oregon, the two women claim that they were paid less than their male colleagues and were unfairly sidelined for promotions. The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status.

“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,” a spokesperson for the brand said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

The two plaintiffs of the lawsuit, Sara Johnston and Kelly Cahill, said they were paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same job.

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. She also said that she did not get promoted despite positive performance reviews.

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.

“On information and belief, he was able to negotiate a higher starting salary even though I had more relevant experience and higher-level credentials. He had no idea how to do the job and I had to train him, but he was paid more than I was,” she said in the case.

Johnston also claimed in the suit that a male colleague had sent her nude photographs of himself. He then refused to attend meetings she organized and withheld information she needed to do her job, she said.

Nike has come under increased scrutiny in recent months after several leading executives left the company amid reports of a problematic work culture.

According to the Journal, at least 11 executives have left Nike since March. The departures included brand president Trevor Edwards and Jayme Martin, a vice president and general manager of global categories.

In April, The New York Times published an investigation based on interviews with 50 current and former employees, who highlighted instances of alleged sexism and gender discrimination at the company.

A group of female employees reportedly interviewed women at the brand earlier this year and gave CEO Mark Parker a packet of detailed allegations in March. Subsequently, several top male executives announced they would leave Nike, and the company began reviewing its human-resources operations.