A pay discrimination lawsuit against Walt Disney Company claiming the entertainment company has violated the California Equal Pay Act has expanded to include ABC Television, as well as Disney’s music label and film studio.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status. Andrus Anderson, the San Fransico law firm representing the two employees who initially filed the lawsuit, had been seeking other potential plaintiffs employed by Disney over the past four years to join the class-action. The law firm has filed a similar case against other high profile defendants, as Intel and Farmers Insurance.
Since filing the initial lawsuit, the number of plaintiffs in the lawsuit has risen to 10. The plaintiffs are alleging that unlawful discrimination practices were taken against them while working at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney’s music label, ABC Television’s music department, and the company’s finance department. This brings to 10 the number of women who are supporting the lawsuit, further supporting the request that the lawsuit be given class-action status.
The lawsuit asserts that “Disney’s centralized compensation policies, practices and procedures which result in unequal pay include initial salary determinations based on prior salary history, initial job assignment, career progression, training, promotions and evaluations.”
One of the plaintiffs, Nancy Dolan is the senior manager of creative music marketing. Dolan, has been employed by the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures for 18 years. Despite several years of excellent performance reviews, Disney’s human resource team has not promoted her. According to a post by the Guardian, a supervisor directly acknowledged Dolan was doing the work of an executive vice-president “for a fraction of the cost.”
Anabel Pareja Sinn, another plaintiff, stated in an email to the Guardian, “Disney has such influence in our country, and in the world, if Disney leads the way for gender equity, all women in the workforce will be better off.”
Disney has taken steps to block the lawsuit from receiving class-action status claiming the women’s situations are not representative of the Disney workforce.
According to the Hollywood Reporter: “The Walt Disney Company described in Plaintiffs’ Complaint is not The Walt Disney Company that exists in fact and law…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.”
Employers who are concerned with the possibility of facing litigation over charges of pay discrimination should consider becoming proactive in addressing pay equity issues within their organization. A report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that mitigating risks of potential enforcement actions or lawsuits was one of the top reasons why employers undertook pay equity audits.
A pay equity audit can identify pay differences between employees that cannot be explained due to job-related factors. This type of audit not only identifies problems, but also provides actionable solutions. It gives employers an opportunity to ensure fairness in pay and prevent employee issues. It allows the employer to minimize risk by identifying and remediating deficiencies, providing the employer with greater standing to defend against and win claims of discrimination.
Overall, a comprehensive proactive pay equity audit is the best place to start to understand what your company is doing right, and where it can improve, before regulatory investigations and employee lawsuits require you to provide this information.
To read the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report on pay equity audits, click here.