Sex discrimination in the workplace has been illegal under federal law for nearly 50 years, but it continues to be widespread. The recent public release of documents from a lawsuit against Oregon’s Nike, Inc., illustrates how pervasive the problem can be.
Some may be surprised by the revelations. Nike has long been one of Oregon’s biggest companies, and the sportswear brand’s logo and distinctive “swoosh” trademark are familiar sights all over the globe. It has also long promoted itself as a supporter of women’s equality.
But the unsealed records from 2018 litigation show that within the company, women employees felt they were routinely denied promotions and paid less than men. In some of the records, women employees reported being subjected to blatant displays of sexual harassment, including requests for sexual favors.
At the time, Nike had a roughly equal ratio of men to women among its employees, but 59% of managers were men. In upper management and leadership, 64% were men. One study found the male employees were paid, on average, $11,000 more than women employees.
Women employees said that they reported some of the incidents and problems, but that management was slow to act.
This started to change after some of the women started employment litigation against Nike, accusing the company of systematic discrimination on the basis of sex. Some of the men named in their litigation left the company in 2018.
A judge ordered records of the case to be sealed from the public in 2019, but the Oregonian newspaper and other news media outlets filed suit to seek their release. The court began releasing the records last November.
For the record
There are many reasons to take legal action if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace. One is to simply compensate you for what you have lost. Another is to force your employer to change. Still another reason is to let the public know what has been going on in the workplace, so that you can hopefully begin to bring about some change.
It isn’t always easy to go public with this type of case. For a number of reasons, you will face pressure to reach a private settlement and perhaps sign a nondisclosure agreement. Even if you do go to court, a judge may sometimes seal records of your case.
Still, it’s worth pursuing justice when you have been wronged. Attorneys help people understand their rights and options.