Two female employees sued Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday, alleging the company is violating the state’s equal pay act and paying women less than men doing similar work.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by San Francisco law firm Andrus Anderson.
The firm, which has filed similar cases against other businesses including Intel and Farmers Insurance, is seeking class action status for the lawsuit, covering people who worked for Walt Disney Studios in roughly the last four years.
“As Disney nears its 100th year in existence, it needs to catch up with the times,” attorney Lori Andrus said in a statement. “The gender pay gap addressed by this lawsuit is all too familiar, and women are fed up with being treated as cheap labor.”
Disney said the lawsuit was “baseless.” In a statement, the company said it maintains “robust pay equity practices and policies” and has a specialized team of compensation professionals and lawyers to address the matter. “We are confident that they [the claims] will be found to be meritless when tested against the evidence, rather than the rhetoric of the complaint."
The lawsuit was brought by Southern California Disney employees LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore. Rasmussen works as a manager in product development for Disney in Glendale. In 2017, Rasmussen raised the issue that she was not being compensated fairly, the lawsuit said. At the time, Rasmussen’s base salary was $109,958. Six other men who held the same title were paid $16,000 to nearly $40,000 more, according to the lawsuit. Five months after she brought up the issue, Rasmussen said, Disney asserted that her salary amount “was not due to gender,” but in November 2018, the company boosted Rasmussen’s pay by $25,000, the lawsuit claims. Even with the pay adjustment, Rasmussen believes she is still making less than men doing similar work.
Moore works as a senior copyright administrator in the Disney Music Group in Burbank. She says she was discouraged from applying for a manager position that was later changed to a senior manager role and given to a man. The lawsuit claims that “he is making significantly more than Ms. Moore even though they are both performing the same or substantially similar work.”
Businesses have expected more lawsuits regarding compensation to pop up after a tougher pay equity law was signed by the governor in 2015. The law requires companies to pay women and men equally for similar work.
Already, companies including Google have faced lawsuits alleging pay discrimination against female workers.
Earlier this week, 13 companies, including Apple, AT&T, Salesforce and Airbnb, signed up to participate in a state initiative promoting equal pay, agreeing to a companywide gender pay analysis.