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Even Big Companies Can Be Sued for Discrimination Notes Chicago Employment Lawyer

Dec 27, 2011

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) December 22, 2011 – Big, well-known companies can run afoul of discrimination law. Take this case that involved Nike.

“It wasn’t too long ago, in fact just last year, that Nike was embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit that resulted in a $7.6 million settlement to over 400 former and currently employed African-Americans in their Niketown store, on ‘the Magnificent Mile’ in Chicago,” outlined Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. “The plaintiffs in this reported case were African-American employees, which is surprising in some ways, as Nike’s main market is young African-Americans between the ages of 13 and 25-years-old.”

Nike, as part of its clever marketing strategy, has also sought endorsements from sports greats Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, so this particular lawsuit was a disappointing detraction from the principles of equity and equality. It is ironic for those working in conditions that encourage discrimination yet at the same time are vital to company sales in a hugely profitable way.

The facts of this case show that Nike segregated African-Americans into lower paying jobs, such as cashiers at high-end stores or stockroom attendants. The company did not make an effort to post any job openings for higher-paying sales positions and would not let black employees work in that capacity. Additionally, most of the African-American staff were only hired for part-time positions, while white counterparts were hired full-time. “Because the African-American workers were part-time, this cheated them out of health insurance and paid vacation, just to name a few of their losses,” added Coffey.

There were other allegations in the lawsuit that were quite serious, and one in particular charged that when the black workers left at the end of their work day they were searched. The white workers were not. Caucasian workers also received discounts from the company. African-Americans did not.

“Furthermore, there was evidence that indicated company policies were not applied to all equally, and the net result was that black workers were disciplined for attendance and sick leave issues, while others were not. The scope of the complaint made it clear that this discrimination caused a hostile work environment,” Coffey remarked.

The settlement was done to avoid a lengthy trial and stipulated a compliance officer would be placed in Nike corporate headquarters. “It wasn’t so much that Nike did ‘not’ have discrimination policies, it was that they left the enforcement of those policies up to each store manager. It was obviously not a smart business decision on their part,” Coffey observed.

This is an important case for demonstrating that discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated in any way. For those facing a similar set of circumstances in their workplace, and need legal advice, make a call to an experienced Chicago employment lawyer.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.

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