Two female employees of The Walt Disney Company have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that the entertainment giant has violated the state’s equal pay act by paying their male colleagues more for doing similar work.
Andrus Anderson, the San Francisco law firm representing the two employees, is seeking other potential plaintiffs employed by Disney over the past four years to join the class-action. The law firm has filed similar case against other high profile defendants, as Intel and Farmers Insurance.
The lawsuit opens with the statement: “When it comes to paying women fairly, The Walt Disney Company, nearing its 100th anniversary, is woefully behind the times. Put simply, Disney refuses to pay its women employees equal to men doing the same work. In many instances, Disney is paying women workers tens of thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts.”
The lawsuit asserts that “Disney’s centralized compensation policies, practices and procedures which result in unequal pay include initial salary determinations based on prior salary history, initial job assignment, career progression, training, promotions and evaluations.”
In a statement provided to Variety, Disney said: “The lawsuit’s uninformed generalized allegations about Disney’s policies and practices are baseless. Disney maintains robust pay equity practices and policies. Even before California’s Fair Pay Act, Disney created a specialized team of Compensation professionals and lawyers to analyze and address the company’s pay equity practices.”
A Los Angeles Times article highlighted the situations of the two plaintiffs. LaRonda Rasmussen, a senior copyright administrator asserted that six male employees were making as much as $40,000 more than her, despite performing the same or similar work. The lawsuit states that during the 11 years she has been with the company, “she has come to understand that Disney routinely underpays its female employees, passes them over for promotion, piles on extra work without additional compensation, and does not supply sufficient support to women employees.” The lawsuit also alleges that Disney increased Rasmussen’s salary by $25,000 prior to the filing date of the complaint, but even with this raise Rasmussen was still underpaid compared to her male peers.
The other plaintiff, Karen Moore, experienced similar discrimination when she was discouraged from applying for an open position for manager. After being discouraged from applying, the role was eventually given the title of senior manager and was awarded to a man making a higher salary. The lawsuit alleges that the male senior manager is being paid “significantly more than Mrs. Moore even though they are performing the same or substantially similar work.”
The gender wage gap continues to provide issues for well-known organizations. Disney is only one of many recognizable organizations to fact legal action relating to gender wage disparities, as we’ve seen with Oracle, U.S. Soccer, Google, Nike and Riot Games, among others.
So what to do if there is concern your organization may face similar allegations? Consider being proactive and undertaking a pay equity audit. A pay equity audit can identify pay differences between employees that cannot be explained due to job-related factors. It is a multi-disciplinary effort that requires extensive domain knowledge expertise across several key disciplines, such as econometrics, statistics and statistical modeling, workforce data management, and knowledge of regulatory audit processes by agencies such as the OFCCP and EEOC.
This type of audit not only identifies problems, but also provides actionable solutions. It gives employers an opportunity to ensure fairness in pay and prevent employee issues. It allows companies to minimize risk by identifying and remediating deficiencies, and providing critical insights necessary to prevent or mitigate claims of pay discrimination.