Transgender worker suing Nike for $1.1M cites pronoun abuse
A transgender former Nike contractor is seeking $1.1 million in damages from the sporting goods giant for allegedly allowing gender identity-based harassment.
According to a civil lawsuit filed this week, Nike and Mainz Brady Group, a staffing firm that hired workers for Nike, discriminated against computer engineer Jazz Lyles, who identifies as transmasculine and prefers the pronouns they/them/their. The complaint was filed with Multnomah Circuit Court in Oregon.
During Lyles' tenure at Nike — from May 2017 to September 2018 — the engineer was repeatedly "misgendered" by co-workers, the complaint said. While Lyles notified management about the issue multiple times, the companies allegedly failed to implement any policies, procedures and trainings around the use of gender pronouns in the workplace.
"When someone refuses to acknowledge a person's gender identity or insists on referring to them by a gender to which they do not identify (called misgendering), this causes real and significant harm," read the complaint. "This is particularly true when a person is misgendered repeatedly on a daily basis."
Nike declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the company "is committed to a culture of diversity, inclusion and respect where everyone can succeed and realize their full potential."
Mainz Brady did not respond to requests for comment.
Nike allegedly fostered a "boys-club 'jock mentality'" work culture that was hostile to people who do not fit gender stereotypes, which the complaint said is contrary to the progressive reputation the sporting goods company enjoys with the public. In its "Be True" campaign, Nike hired transgender athletes to promote athletic wear like hoodies and sneakers.
The suit alleged that placing the burden on Lyles to educate colleagues about gender identity caused tension between the engineer and co-workers, who allegedly called Lyles "stupid" and "unstable." One colleague allegedly said, "I know I'm not supposed to call you 'she-male.'" Another co-worker allegedly chose not to interact with the plaintiff. Still another colleague allegedly said she would not use Lyles' gender pronouns for religious reasons.