Nike is fighting back against the headline-making lawsuit it was hit with this summer, which accused the sportswear giant of systematically failing to address formal sexual harassment complaints from female employees, and creating a hostile work environment for women, who are paid less and given fewer opportunities for advancement than their male colleagues despite comparable experience and performance. As of this week, Nike is asking a federal court in Oregon to dismiss a number of the claims cited by former Nike employees Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, who filed a potential class action suit against it in August.
In addition to asking the court to refrain from certifying the potential class action and thereby, preventing other similarly situated women from joining in the case, which currently includes 7 named plaintiffs, including both former and current Nike employees, Nike asserts that Cahill and Johnston “have not alleged any factual predicate that makes [their] claims plausible or warrants imposing upon Nike and the court the considerable burden and expense of litigating their overbroad claims.”
For instance, Nike argues that in the complaint, one of the named plaintiffs compares her salary to one of a male Nike employee, but fails to identify the male employee's job title or specific responsibilities, and whether those are the same as hers. Nike further asserts that another one of the plaintiffs cites differences between her salary and the salaries of male Nike employees, but the men occupy higher job levels and maintain different job titles.
These “inconsistent theories highlight the untenable nature of this alleged class action,” according to Nike, and as such, the Portland-based giant has asked the court to dismiss three of the plaintiffs’ four claims, including those that it violated the Federal Equal Pay Act, Oregon Equal Pay Act, and Oregon Equality Act. In particular, Nike claims that the plaintiffs have failed to present the requisite level of factual content from which the court could draw a “reasonable inference” that Nike has, in fact, engaged in the alleged misconduct at hand.
On Monday, Nike requested an oral argument before Judge Jolie A. Russo in connection with its motion to dismiss.
The suit comes after Nike came under fire this spring when a group of female employees approached CEO Mark Parker with a survey they had conducted among fellow Nike employees centering on gender discrimination, which swiftly made headlines and resulted in Parker restructuring his leadership team. Parker announced that then-President Trevor Edwards, who “was being groomed to be a possible successor to Parker,” per CNBC, would retire in August, while Nike ousted at least 11 executives and announced raises for 7,000 employees after conducting an internal review of its pay practices.
* The case is Kelly Cahill, et al. v. Nike Inc., 3:18-cv-1477 (D.Ore).