“Nike is being sued … again. On the heels of being named in a growing class action lawsuit filed over the summer, accusing it of “intentionally and willfully discriminates” against women in terms of “pay, promotions, and conditions of employment,” and a subsequent shareholders sued that called attention to reports of the company’s “hostile work environment” and their impact on the value of the brand, Nike has been hit with yet another lawsuit. This time, the $34 billion Portland-based sportswear giant has been accused of discriminating against a former senior employee on the basis of race.
According to the lawsuit that New Delhi, India-born, Portland-based Ahmer Inam filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Oregon this week, Nike subjected him to “disparate treatment based upon his race, color and national origin,” including by paying him less than his white colleagues, denying him promotional opportunities for which he was qualified, and failing to “intervene” or “to provide any useful assistance” when he formally reported his “concerns of discrimination.”
Mr. Inam asserts in his complaint that during his 3-year tenure at Nike, he discovered that he was not only being paid a “salary that was roughly $50,000 less than what the market would dictate for someone with his background, qualifications and experience,” but $75,000 less than at least one white co-worker with similar education and experience. In addition to salary discrepancies, Inam – who joined Nike in 2015, where he worked until January as a senior director and the head of Advanced Analytics – was denied a promotion opportunity for a role, despite being “more qualified for the role” than his white co-worker who was promoted instead.
The complaint notes that not only does Mr. Inam have two master’s degrees to the other employee’s one bachelor degree, Inam asserts that he has “roughly 20 years of work experience in advanced and predictive analytics,” which was integral to the role. Nonetheless, Inam was passed over for the promotion, which he attributes as being part of Nike’s larger “pattern” discrimination against non-white employees.
Still yet, the complaint goes on to assert that Inam was subjected to a “pattern of hostile and intimidating treatment, which differed markedly from the way [Nike] treated the white members of [its] teams.” Inam reported his experiences to Nike’s HR department only to be told that he “should not document his concerns to the level of detail that it could get someone fired,” but instead, should be drafted in a more generalized way.
According to Inam’s counsel Dana Sullivan of Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan, when Inam raised concerns internally, Nike CEO Mark Parker “left him hanging for months and left him no alternative but to leave the company.” The case, she says, “reveals the hypocrisy of Nike’s marketing effort to portray itself as a champion of diversity.”
As a result of the foregoing, Inam is seeking nearly $900,000 damages and attorney fees.
A rep for Nike stated on Thursday, “We can’t comment on the recently filed complaint, but Nike is committed to creating a culture of empowerment and respect where everyone can succeed and contribute to our success.”The case at hand comes more than a decade after Nike was accused of racial discrimination in a sweeping class action lawsuit and despite denying such claims, agreed to a $7.6 million settlement in the suit, which was brought by 400 current and former employees of its Niketown store in Chicago. That suit, filed in 2003, accused Nike managers of using racial slurs in addressing black customers and employees, accusing black employees of theft, and preventing them from advancing professionally. In furtherance of the 2004 settlement, CBS reported at the time that Nike agreed to “appoint a diversity consultant to monitor the Chicago store’s compliance, add an ombudsman at the store, conduct diversity training for all its supervisors and managers, review its human resources practices and theft-loss policies, create equal-opportunity objectives for its store, and institute a formal mentoring program for black employees.”