Executives at a well-known fashion brand’s US office would get “sloppy drunk” and prey on female subordinates while the company ignored their complaints, according to an unsealed gender discrimination lawsuit against the sneaker giant Nike.
The female underlings alleged in the complaint that Nike’s Oregon headquarters was a “boys club” in which male executives subjected them to sexual advances, suggestive comments about their appearance, and hints and innuendos alluding to sex, the New York Post reports.
One woman reported finding an executive receiving oral sex from a female subordinate in the campus gym, according to the civil complaint filed in US District Court in Oregon.
Another who worked at the company recalled being told by male co-workers to “dress sexier” and “show some skin,” the lawsuit alleged.
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The documents unsealed last month include deposition testimony, executive emails, speech crafts and correspondence between lawyers in the suit filed in 2018. The judge denied class-action status for the lawsuit, shrinking the pool of plaintiffs from 5,200 to the original 14 who filed the complaint.
The New York Post has sought comment from Nike.
During business trips, male executives would get “sloppy drunk” and put their arms around female subordinates, the lawsuit stated.
Other women were invited to “work dinners” with higher-ranking men who had hopes of sleeping with them, the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit states that several women at the company circulated anonymous surveys asking about alleged instances of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
One woman wrote in one of the surveys that Nike was a “giant men’s sports team, where favouritism prevails and females couldn’t possibly play in the sandbox.”
One female worker alleged that she was told by a male executive: “Maybe if you dressed nicer I would be on time. Take that baggy jacket off and show some skin.”
The women rarely reported these incidents to human resources because they didn’t believe the department would handle them seriously, according to Insider.
“(Employee resources) and HR at this company are a joke,” one woman wrote in a survey.
“Females at this company have felt very little power to change a culture and environment that has been and continues to be disrespectful to women,” another woman employed by Nike wrote.
“Kept it to myself because of who he is at the company,” wrote the woman who was told to “show some skin.”
The surveys began to circulate in 2018 after several female employees were upset over the company’s handling of previous complaints.
Dozens of surveys were collected, though just 10 of them made it into the court records. A judge rejected Nike’s request to keep the content of the surveys sealed.
Mark Parker, the current executive chairman of Nike, received the surveys in March 2018, Insider reported. At the time, he was CEO of the company.
Days after receiving the surveys, Parker announced a management reshuffle. He also apologised to Nike employees in an email.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve become aware of reports occurring within our organisation that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment,” Parker wrote.
After Parker received the surveys, at least 11 executives left the company. Nike also made an effort to include more women in its management structure.
Since 2018, the percentage of women who serve as company vice presidents has risen from 36 per cent to 43 per cent.
Nike has also denied allegations of a gender pay gap in which women were paid $US11,000 (approx. $A16,500) less a year than men who did the same jobs. The allegations were first reported by Insider, which cited the same gender discrimination lawsuit.
This article originally appeared on The New York Post and was reproduced with permission