INTERNATIONAL – Up until recently, sexual harassment claims at Nike followed a familiar trajectory in the #MeToo era. Women who worked at the company shared information about the abuse they faced at work. Shortly after, a group of executives left.
Now four former female Nike employees are suing the athletic apparel giant – not for sexual harassment, but for pay discrimination and limited opportunities for women to win promotions. The plaintiffs are seeking damages and an end to Nike’s alleged discriminatory policies.
If the lawsuit clears the difficult hurdle of attaining class-action status, a lawyer for the plaintiffs says, she expects at least 500 more women to join.
“Just firing a few people is not going to change something that has been in the making for many years,” says Laura Salerno Owens, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “That’s not how this works.”
High-profile departures by men such as those at the NFL Network and CBS have been followed by those companies also being sued for sexual harassment. What makes the Nike suit different is that it aims to take down an alleged system of discrimination in which harassment is only one part of a larger problem.