(Reuters) – Walt Disney has been accused of systematically underpaying women in California in a lawsuit that alleges the company’s female employees in the state earned $150 million less than their male counterparts over an eight year period.
The Friday filing in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeks to persuade the judge to certify a four-year-old civil suit as a class action, covering some 12,500 current or former fulltime female Disney employees who held positions below the level of vice president.
An analysis of Disney’s human resource data from April 2015 through December 2022 has found female Disney employees were paid roughly 2% less than male counterparts, the filing said. It was conducted by David Neumark, a University of California Irvine professor and labor economist.
Disney disputes the findings.
“The plaintiffs’ assertions about an alleged pay gap between women and men are simply false, which we will demonstrate through the litigation,” said Shawna M. Swanson, associate general counsel and head of the employment law function for Disney.
The original suit was filed by LaRonda Rasmussen in 2019, after she learned that six men with the same job title earned substantially more, including one recent hire with several years less experience, who earned $20,000 more, according to the complaint. Nine current or past Disney employees have joined the suit.
“Several of the named plaintiffs, they do love the Disney brand, they just want to be paid fairly,” said Lori Andrus, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney.
Lower pay for women in California would breach the state’s Equal Pay Act and the Fair Employment & Housing Act.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)