Nearly 9,000 women will now be able to sue The Walt Disney Company, alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts.
A Los Angeles judge on December 8 certified a lawsuit filed under California’s Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying less than someone of the opposite sex or race. The class-action lawsuit is the largest lawsuit ever certified under the act.
“These are important cases for reducing the wage gap and exposing discriminatory pay practices,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Lori Andrus told IndieWire. “We are honored to represent the brave women who have come forward to tell the stories of so many women who are treated like cheap labor. We are pleased that the judge saw through Disney’s tactics. Fairness is the goal. That is all.”
A Disney spokesperson told IndieWire that the company is “disappointed” in the ruling by Los Angeles Judge Elihu M. Berle, who rejected the argument presented by Disney’s attorney that the case was too wide-ranging.
“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling as to the Equal Pay Act claims and are considering our options,” the Disney statement read.
The complaint, originally filed in April 2019 and obtained by IndieWire, names plaintiffs who worked at Disney across Disney’s film and TV studios, in the music groups, theme parks and hotels, at Lucasfilm, ABC, Marvel, Imagineering, and across job functions and levels. The suit excludes those at Pixar, ESPN, Hulu, Fox, or FX. Employees included in the suit are those who have worked at the company in California since April 1, 2015 in non-union positions and below the level of vice president.
Andrus tells IndieWire that the lawsuit represents approximately 8,900 women as of mid-2022 and will be slightly larger by the time of the trial.
According to Variety, Disney’s attorney Felicia Davis in court on Friday argued that the plaintiffs were looking to compare salaries across thousands of positions and therefore could not be comparable to one another.
“I know — it’s going to be horrendous,” Variety reported Judge Berle as saying in challenging the argument. “You’re telling me Disney has no system of categorizing pay grade levels?”
A status conference is set for February 9, 2024, with a trial anticipated by October next year.