SBD/Issue 127/Law & Politics

Suit Against Chicago Niketown Gains Class-Action Status

Niketown In Chicago
Embroiled In Legal Dispute
A race discrimination lawsuit brought by 18 current and former African-American employees of Chicago’s Niketown store in ’03 has been granted class-action status, “creating a potentially damaging public relations problem” for Nike, according to Ameet Sachdev of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The suit claims that Niketown “systematically discriminated against these workers in hiring, promotions, benefits and workplace discipline, thus subjecting them to a hostile environment.” The suit also alleges that African-American customers, including Bulls F Tyson Chandler and three Packers players, “were subject to greater scrutiny and monitoring at the Chicago store.” In granting class-action status, U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur “rejected Nike’s arguments that the allegations of poor treatment were isolated and random.” A status hearing is planned for next week. Nike Dir of Global Issues Management Vada Manager said in response to the suit, “We want to communicate to our customers that we don’t believe the allegations made in the case are consistent with our culture of inclusion and respect. We don’t believe this reflects our corporate philosophy.” Marketing experts said that the suit “could cause distress at Nike.” Univ. of Michigan associate professor of marketing Christie Nordhielm said, “Minority groups tend to pay more attention to this type of issue than others. The fact that the Chicago Niketown is a flagship store, it will cause a bigger fuss than most” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/24).

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