In a landmark decision, a class action lawsuit against Disney involving alleged gender pay disparity was certified by a judge.
This lawsuit is significant as it represents the largest ever under California’s Equal Pay Act, which prohibits unequal pay for substantially similar work based on gender.
Disney faces lawsuit from 9,000 women alleging gender pay disparity
The suit involves around 9,000 women who claim Disney paid them less than male employees in similar roles. Lori Andrus, the attorney representing these women, expressed her stance outside the Los Angeles courtroom.
“Disney has been gaslighting these women for four years,” Andrus stated. “They love their jobs. They love the brand. But they want to be respected and treated the way they should be in the workplace.”
Reacting to the ruling, Disney conveyed its disappointment through a written statement.
Disney contests court ruling in Equal Pay Act lawsuit, argues job diversity
A spokesperson for the company said, “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling as to the Equal Pay Act claims and are considering our options.”
Judge Elihu M. Berle presided over the case, dismissing Disney’s argument that the lawsuit was too sprawling to manage.
Disney’s lawyer, Felicia Davis, contended that the plaintiffs were attempting to compare salaries across thousands of job groups, reflecting the decisions of numerous managers.
She emphasized the diversity of job roles within the company, ranging from music producers to Star Wars social media managers. She argued that their work cannot be deemed “substantially similar.”
Disney’s class action suit encompasses a wide range of female workers
The class action includes female employees working in non-union roles below the vice president level at Disney in California since April 1, 2015.
This encompasses a wide range of Disney units like Disneyland hotels, theme parks, cruise lines, film and TV studios, ABC, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, but excludes entities like Pixar, ESPN, Hulu, Fox, or FX.
Davis highlighted the complexity Disney would face in defending at trial, needing to demonstrate that any pay disparities were due to permissible factors like education, training, and experience.
Judge Berle questions Disney’s pay grade system in gender pay gap lawsuit
Responding to this, Judge Berle, in a lightly mocking tone, questioned Disney’s ability to categorize pay grade levels efficiently. “You’re telling me Disney has no system of categorizing pay grade levels?” he queried.
Both parties have engaged experts to address the gender pay gap. According to Andrus, women’s starting pay across the class is 2% lower than men’s.
Additionally, Andrus was pursuing a parallel claim under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which would cover around 12,000 women.
Judge Berle rejects class certification in Disney pay discrimination case
However, Judge Berle denied class certification on this broader claim.
The argument hinged on using a new hire’s pay history in determining starting salary, a practice Andrus claimed discriminated against women.
Berle ruled that Disney managers, until 2017, were permitted but not required to use pay history as a factor, thus negating the existence of a companywide discriminatory policy.
Disney wage disparity lawsuit heads to trial, highlights gender pay equity issues
Following the ruling, Davis did not comment outside court, directing queries to Disney. The case moves forward with a status conference scheduled for February 9 and a trial anticipated before October, as noted by Andrus.
This lawsuit against Disney marks a pivotal moment in the fight for gender pay equity, highlighting the complexities of addressing wage disparities within large, diverse corporations.
It underscores the challenges in defining and proving “substantially similar work” and sets a precedent for future legal battles in this domain.