On December 17, 2003, an African-American employee of the Niketown Chicago filed a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against the Nike Retail Services Inc. in the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois.
The plaintiffs asked the court for both monetary damages and injunctive relief, charging the defendant with multiple forms of racial discrimination. According to the third amended complaint, filed on May 12, 2006, the defendant had engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination against its African-American employees, which included the following discriminatory treatment: segregating its African-American employees into the lowest paying jobs; failing to provide African-American employees with equal promotional opportunities; disciplining and terminating African-American employees pursuant to rules that were not enforced the same way against Caucasian employees; treating its African-American employees less favorably in terms of benefits and classification; and maintaining a hostile work environment for all its African-American employees based on this disparate treatment, coupled with a workplace filled with racial slurs by managers and employees, unfounded accusations of theft and abuse of discount and commission policies overwhelmingly directed at African-American employees, and unwarranted and excessive monitoring of African-American employees and customers.
The plaintiff initially filed the case pro se, but acquired private counsel prior to filing an amended complaint on August 23, 2004. The defendant filed a partial motion to dismiss on October 28, 2004. On November 17, 2004, the court (Judge Milton I. Shadur) granted this motion, dismissing all Title VII claims based on hostile work environment.
After filing a second amended complaint on February 22, 2005, the plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on December 23, 2005. On March 22, 2006, the court (Judge Shadur) granted this motion and certified the plaintiff class. As described in the settlement agreement, the court certified the following sub-classes for purposes of liability, monetary and injunctive relief:
• Hostile Work Environment Class: All African-American employees and managers who are or were employed at Niketown Chicago at any time between December 17, 1999 and the present who allegedly were subjected to a hostile working environment.
• Job Segregation/Wage Disparity Class: All current and former non-managerial African-American employees at Niketown Chicago who allegedly were assigned to lower paid positions in the stockroom or as cashiers because of their race during the period between December 17, 1999 and the present.
• Promotion Class: All current and former non-managerial African-American employees at Niketown Chicago who allegedly were denied promotions or deprived of the ability to pursue promotions because of their race during the period between December 17, 1999 and the present.
• Discipline Class: All current and former non-managerial African-American
employees at Niketown Chicago who allegedly were subjected to racially-biased application of workplace rules and regulations that resulted in discipline up to and including termination, during the period between December 17, 1999 and the present.
• Benefits Class: All current and former non-managerial African-American employees at Niketown Chicago who allegedly applied for, requested and/or were entitled to benefits but were denied those benefits because of their race, during the period between December 17, 1999 and the present.
On July 30, 2007, the two parties issued a joint motion proposing a settlement agreement and consent decree, seeking an order of approval from the court. On October 2, 2007, the court (Judge Shadur) approved the settlement agreement and consent decree, dismissing the case. The agreement called for substantial equitable relief, including a court-appointed diversity consultant and specific programmatic relief of various forms. The settlement also called for a monetary settlement fund of $7,600,000 to be paid for the compensatory and punitive damages sought on behalf of the class. Attorney's fees were to be paid as well. As of April 2008, discussion continued on the details of the fund distribution.Nathaniel Koslof - 04/26/2008