A Guide to Nike’s High-Profile Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

  • Former female Nike employees sued the company over alleged gender discrimination in 2018.
  • The case is one of the most high-profile cases filed in the wake of the #MeToo movement. 
  • Here’s a guide to Insider’s coverage of the lawsuit, which awaits a final ruling on class certification.

A sweeping gender-discrimination lawsuit against Nike is at a critical point. In November, a judge ruled against a motion to make the case a class action.

The judge will soon consider objections to her ruling. 

The lawsuit was filed in 2018, a few months after the Wall Street Journal first reported on allegations of a “boys’ club” culture at Nike. The company has repeatedly said it has zero tolerance for discrimination. 

Here’s a guide to Insider’s coverage of the lawsuit. 

Nike employees described ‘sloppy drunk’ men, witnessing oral sex, and requests to ‘dress sexier’ at work in newly unsealed surveys

In December 2022, Insider published the most detailed look yet at the nature and details of the allegations that first rocked the sportswear giant in 2018. The report used roughly 5,000 pages of court documents, including never-before-seen employee surveys, that were unsealed after a court challenge. 

Unsealed Nike employee surveys described a ‘boys’ club’ culture where women were called ‘honey’ and ‘females couldn’t possibly play in the sandbox’

Another December Insider report dove deeper into the documents and surfaced additional details from the unsealed employee surveys, including claims of “overarching” themes of “normalized negative, manipulative and sexist behavior” at the company. 

Nike scores critical win in sweeping gender discrimination lawsuit

In November 2022, a federal judge ruled against a motion to convert the lawsuit into a class action. Nike and plaintiffs have since filed written objections to the ruling. A date has not been set for oral arguments.

If plaintiffs get the decision reversed, the case would proceed on behalf of roughly 5,000 women who have worked at Nike’s headquarters since October 2017 instead of the 14 plaintiffs named currently.

Nike paid male employees $11,000 more than their female coworkers, newly unsealed court documents allege. Nike disputes the number and says there’s no gender pay gap.

In November 2022, Nike and plaintiffs unsealed roughly 5,000 pages of documents, including details of an alleged $11,000 pay gap between 2015 and 2019 for male and female Nike employees. Nike disputed the calculation, which had previously been sealed. Plaintiffs used information obtained from Nike during discovery to compute the alleged gap.

Nike ordered to release additional information about pay practices in sweeping gender-discrimination lawsuit after Insider and other publications’ challenge of court seal

In September 2022, a federal judge ruled in favor of Insider, the Oregonian, and the Portland Business Journal. The news outlets had challenged the protective order in the lawsuit, arguing for the public interest in the case. 

Nike is fighting to keep a massive gender-discrimination case from going forward. 3 lawyers walked us through what’s at stake.

Three lawyers explained to Insider how class certification motions are a “central moment” in such cases and why companies like Nike fight so hard to defeat them. 

Nike unseals internal memos and human-resource documents as it gears up to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination

In late April 2022, Nike unsealed its motion against class certification. The motion, and supporting documents, gave the fullest picture at the time of Nike’s internal response to the allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. 

Insider among publications working to unseal records in Nike’s gender discrimination lawsuit

In early April 2022, Insider, the Oregonian, and the Portland Business Journal intervened in the lawsuit in an effort to get more of the case unsealed. Hundreds of court filings, including corporate records and witness testimony, remained off limits to the public. 

Nike pay and HR practices coming to light as part of lawsuit alleging gender discrimination

In late-March 2022, Nike unsealed more than 700 pages of records that showed the company would likely argue in court that individual hiring managers make decisions about pay, therefore any disparities were isolated, not systemic. 

Nike files motion to keep sensitive records in sweeping gender discrimination lawsuit sealed

In mid-March 2022, Nike said in a legal filing it was willing to make the “overwhelming majority” of the lawsuit public, but it wanted several records to remain sealed, including a plaintiffs’ analysis of aggregate pay shortfalls and documents about three former employees who were the subject of complaints. 

Nike infuriated employees and helped spark a lawsuit with a ‘tone-deaf’ declaration about pay equity. Here’s the leaked memo that drew so much scorn.

In April 2017, Nike’s top human resources official proclaimed victory on pay equity in a company-wide email, saying women earned 99.6% of what men earned. The self-congratulatory tone of the email spurred an independent employee survey of sexual harassment and gender discrimination that ultimately landed on the desk of then-CEO Mark Parker. 

Do you work at Nike or have insight to share? Contact reporter Matthew Kish via the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-971-319-3830) or email (mkish@insider.com). Check out Insider’s source guide for other tips on sharing information securely.

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