Disney is facing a class-action lawsuit concerning unequal pay practices, and the company’s defense tactic basically boils down to: You may sue us, but one at a time, please.
In April, two Disney employees, LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore, hit the company with a putative class-action lawsuit alleging that they were paid less than men in comparable positions at the company. When it seemed as if Disney would challenge the lawsuit on the basis of two plaintiffs not being representative of the alleged issue, eight other women working in various divisions throughout Disney were added to the lawsuit, all claiming gender pay discrimination.
Now Disney is saying that the cases are too disparate to qualify as a class-action suit. According to Disney’s defense:
The Disney Companies categorically deny that they pay any female employee less than her similarly situated male coworkers and will vigorously defend themselves against each Plaintiff’s individual claims. But that is all this case is—an assortment of individual claims, based on highly individualized allegations […]
The comparisons Plaintiffs seek to make—across different jobs, different levels, and with potentially unspecified other differences—would demand an individual-by-individual review of the duties, skills, effort, responsibility, and working conditions of each woman in every job, compared to each man in every job, to identify the correct comparator pool.
Disney is also making the claim that even though the lawsuit went from two to 10 women, it’s still not a large enough representation across its sprawling ventures (theme parks, film, broadcast, cruise lines, etc.) to mandate a class-action suit.
This lawsuit comes at a time when there’s been increased pressure on high-profile companies, specifically in California, to address the global issue of pay disparity between women and men.
Time’s Up recently partnered with California lawmakers to create an “equal pay pledge” where companies in the state voluntarily commit to conducting a gender pay analysis, as well as review hiring and promotion processes. Apple, Airbnb, Salesforce, Square, Intel, Cisco, and Uber are just a few of the companies who have signed the pledge. Disney has not, but, in the initial lawsuit, the company claims that 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 hearing to determine whether or not Disney can stop a class-action suit is schedule for December 11.