Nike women clear first hurdle in lawsuit over gender pay gap

Nike athletic wear is seen on mannequins displayed at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Daly City, California, US. (Bloomberg pic)

SAN FRANCISCO: Nike lost its first attempt to scale back a class-action lawsuit accusing the athletic apparel giant of systematic pay discrimination against female employees.

The company sought to block the four women who sued in August from proceeding collectively on behalf of other employees, but a federal magistrate judge said it’s too early to limit who are covered by the case.

The magistrate’s findings will be reviewed by a district judge.

The four former employees alleged that Nike mistreats women by relying on their salary history in setting their starting pay, marginalising their performance to stifle their career growth, and largely ignoring sexual harassment.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said when the case was first filed that if it clears the difficult hurdle of attaining class-action status, she expects at least 500 more women to join.

Last year, Nike announced that in the wake of a review of its pay structure, including pay equity, it was increasing the salaries of about 7,400 workers worldwide.

A spokesman for Nike declined to comment.