Nike Hit With Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Sheena Butler-Young

Nike Inc.’s corporate culture continues to face legal scrutiny almost a year after CEO Mark Parker admitted to internal behavioral challenges at the brand.

Ahmer Inam, who worked as a senior director in data analytics at Nike, filed suit against the company on Tuesday alleging it racially discriminated against him, The Portland Business Journal reported.

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In the suit, the third in a wave of recent litigation the firm has faced alleging discrimination, Inam claims he was denied a promotion in favor of a white executive who had less experience. He further alleges a white co-worker with similar qualifications received a salary $75,000 higher than his, the Journal reported.

Among his other claims, the former Nike executive — who joined the firm in 2016 — alleges the company subjected him to a “pattern of hostile and intimidating treatment, which differed markedly from the way [his former supervisor] treated the white members of her team.” Inam also claims a former supervisor criticized employees of color, didn’t value their work and “generally [treated] them like second-class citizens,” per the publication.

Inam, who is from India, further claims that the treatment he experienced while at the brand caused him several physical and mental health issues, including “symptoms of anxiety including but not limited to agitation, depression, lack of hope, psychosomatic anxiety-related muscle and joint pains, panic attacks, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches, nausea, persistent cold, loss of connection with family and loss of appetite.”

In August 2018, less than four months after an exposé in The New York Times described a “toxic” boys’ club culture at Nike, two former employees, Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, filed a lawsuit against the sportswear giant alleging that it “intentionally and willfully” discriminated against women with regard to pay and promotions, and that its majority-male executives fostered a hostile work environment at its Portland, Ore., headquarters. (Since then, several other women were added to the suit as plaintiffs, and the group is seeking class action status for the claim.)

A second sweeping suit came in September when three Nike shareholders sued Nike founder Phil Knight, CEO Mark Parker and former Nike brand president Trevor Edwards, as well as the company’s board, alleging that they “facilitated and knowingly ignored the hostile work environment that has now harmed, and threatens to further tarnish and impair, the company’s financial position.”

Throughout the imbroglio, Nike has maintained that it “opposes discrimination of any type and has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are committed to competitive pay and benefits for our employees. The vast majority of Nike employees live by our values of dignity and respect for others.”

In his claim, Inam is seeking $516,000 in economic damages, $350,000 in noneconomic damages and attorney fees, the Journal reported.

In response to FN’s request for comment, a spokesperson for the brand declined to comment on the recent suit but noted that “Nike is committed to creating a culture of empowerment and respect where everyone can succeed and contribute to our success.”

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