A former Nike employee who identifies as “transmasculine” filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the company last week, claiming gender identity-based harassment due to the use of wrong pronouns.
Jazz Lyles was a computer engineer at Nike from May 2017 to September 2018 and was often “misgendered” by employees, according to the lawsuit. Lyles prefers the pronouns “they/them/their,” according to CBS News.
“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,” the complaint says, according to CBS News. “This is particularly true when a person is misgendered repeatedly on a daily basis.”
Lyles, the suit says, was given the responsibility of educating fellow employees about the preferred pronouns. One co-worker refused to use the preferred pronouns due to religious reasons. Another worker allegedly said, “I know I'm not supposed to call you 'she-male.” Still, another worker did not want to work with Lyles.
“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,” CBS News reported.
Lyles reported the incidents to Nike, which often failed to take action, the suit says. Nike eventually did hold a training session about gender pronouns, but it was only for Lyles’ immediate co-workers instead of the department, CBS News said. This “exacerbated” Lyles’ “relationship to the team,” CBS News reported.
“Employers like Nike have a responsibility to present a safe workplace and ensure that employees respect their coworkers' gender pronouns,” Lyles’ attorney, Shenoa Payne, told CBS News.
Nike, in a statement, said the company “is committed to a culture of diversity, inclusion and respect where everyone can succeed and realize their full potential.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.