Disney Faces Pay Equity Claims From Thousands Of Female Employees After Losing Bid To Halt Class Action Certification; “Time To Grow Up,” Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Says Of Mouse House

Thousands and thousands of past and present female Disney employees can sue the Mouse House for paying them less than men.

More than four years after Walt Disney Studios staffers LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore filed a lawsuit claiming gender-based pay disparity, a Los Angeles judge Friday has agreed the matter can become a class-action suit.

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Looking at a potential payout in the hundreds of millions, that means almost 10,000 women can join the legal action. At this rate, a trial could kick off in October 2024.

“Disney is 100 years old this week,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Lori Andrus told Deadline after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle cast aside the company’s organizational-based objections to certification in a long anticipated hearing Friday. “It is time [for Disney] to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.”

As a point of law, the plaintiffs allege that Disney has violated the Fair Employment & Housing Act and California’s Equal Pay Act. Seeking at least $150 million in lost wages, the suit could balloon in damages up to and beyond $300 million. It means the action could prove the biggest ever certified under California law.

Also, because Disney’s “CEO exercises direct control over many aspects of employment,” as stated in a plaintiffs filing earlier this year, Bob Iger may find himself directly pulled into this case to testify.

“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling as to the Equal Pay Act claims and are considering our options,” a Disney spokesperson said this afternoon.

Besides Iger having to go under oath, it’s not hard to figure out why the media giant is so disappointed.

Since the case began in 2019, Disney has repeatedly sought to swat away or silence the initial two plaintiffs’ claims of institutional discrepancy and move for back pay, lost benefits and other compensation as “an assortment of individual claims, based on highly individualized allegations” that are best addressed internally and individually. They’ve tried, but the company has been unsuccessful in getting the case dismissed or trimmed.

The numbers don’t look good – and not just because the class-action certification now allows so many more plaintiffs to join in.

According to documents submitted in June, the average discrepancy in wages at Disney works out to about 2.5% less for women than men since 2017 (when the company stopped using prior salary levels as part of “setting starting pay” and “the disparities in starting pay shrunk substantially”). While that many seem a small paycheck gulf, it actually holds a lot of weight when you consider that the average entry-level pay for a women at Disney is $75,000 or less, that translates into $1,875 less on average then male employees in take-home cash after taxes, deductions and more.

Stretching from 2015 to the present, the suit does not include women employed at Hulu, ESPN, Pixar and what was once Fox assets like FX or National Geographic.

As a side note, this certification hearing was on the calendar last month, but the judge pushed it to today due to the lack of a court reporter earlier in the day.

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