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Disney Hit With Gender Pay Gap Class Action Suit

A class action law firm sued the Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday, alleging that the company systematically underpays its female employees.

The firm of Andrus Anderson LLP, based in San Francisco, seeks to represent all women employed by the Walt Disney Studios in California since 2015. The suit claims that corporate policies — including setting a new hire’s salary based on her salary at previous employers — has a discriminatory effect on women.

The suit also alleges that Disney does not have an internal mechanism to ensure that women are not paid less than their male counterparts for the same work.

“Like other companies that operate without transparency, consistency, and accountability, Disney’s leadership tends to value male workers more than female workers,” the suit alleges. “Taken together, Disney’s compensation policies, procedures and practices are not valid, job-related, or justified by business necessity.”

A Disney spokesman denied the allegations.

“The lawsuit is without merit and we will defend against it vigorously,” the spokesman said.

The suit represents two named plaintiffs, LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore. According to the complaint, Rasmussen has worked as a financial analyst for Disney for the last 11 years. In 2017, Rasmussen raised the issue of her pay with human resources. At the time, she was making a base salary of $109,958 a year.

She discovered that the six men who had the same title as she did all made more than she did, with disparities ranging from $16,000 to $40,000 per year. In November 2018, she was given a $25,000 raise, but the suit alleges that she still makes significantly less than her average male counterpart. Around the same time, two other female employees were also given sizable raises, which the suit suggests is indicative of a dawning awareness of a systemic issue.

Andrus Anderson LLP has filed similar pay disparity suits against Intel, Steptoe & Johnson, and Farmers Insurance.

Update, April 3: Disney has a more detailed response:

“The lawsuit’s uninformed generalized allegations about Disney’s policies and practices are baseless,” a Disney spokesperson said. “In point of fact, 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. As to the individual claims, we are confident that they will be found to be meritless when tested against the evidence, rather than the rhetoric of the complaint.”

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