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Nike case shows link between sexual harassment, discrimination

California readers may have heard that Nike is the latest company to be accused of sexual harassment as a result of the #MeToo movement. Employment law experts say that the case illustrates the potential link between on-the-job sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

According to an article in The New York Times, women working at Nike conducted a covert survey asking employees about their experiences with sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The survey was eventually sent to the sportswear company's CEO, and six executives left the company as a result. Some of the alleged sexual harassment incidents described in the article include a woman being called a sexist name, a manager referencing an employee's breasts in an email and a manager bragging about having condoms in his bag. Nike's management reportedly did nothing about these claims.

The legal standard for sexual harassment is high. Over the years, this has led many companies, including Nike, to sweep such allegations under the rug. However, legal advisers say that strategy can be dangerous. For example, a supervisor making one or two inappropriate comments about an employee's gender may not rise to the legal level of sexual harassment, but it could serve as proof of workplace discrimination if he later denies her a promotion. Therefore, companies that do not quickly and thoroughly address all sexual harassment claims could be left vulnerable.

State and federal laws protect employees from harassment and workplace discrimination. People who have been victimized by such behavior may find relief by discussing their case with an employment law attorney.

Source: Market Watch, "Opinion: Nike's #MeToo moment shows a better approach to tackling sexual harassment", May 4, 2018

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