Disney owes wages to its female workers more than $150 million

The Walt Disney Company has systematically underpaid women, depriving female employees of more than $150 million in wages in California since 2015, according to a new analysis of salary data conducted as part of a class-action lawsuit alleging a widening pay gap at the company.

Lawyers for a group of women suing Disney alleged in state court in Los Angeles on Friday that the entertainment and media company had paid women an average of 2% less than men doing equivalent work, in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act.

The analysis is based on salaries for non-union employees below the vice president level and includes workers at Disney Studios, parks and resorts, its music labels, Disney+, ABC, Lucasfilm, Searchlight Pictures and other major entities the lawsuits say are all. subject to the same compensation system.

The estimate that women owed $151.6 million was uncovered in an attorney’s motion for class certification for the more than 10,000 women employed by the Disney entity from 2015 to date. The case excludes Hulu, ESPN, Pixar, 21st Century Fox and several other brands that have different payment policies or have recently been acquired and cannot be compared fairly with other companies, attorneys said.

The case was first filed in 2019 alleging a “horrific gender pay gap that seems ingrained in Disney culture”. LaRonda Rasmussen, a product development manager for Disney, and the plaintiff whose name the case takes, alleges that six men with the same title received between $16,000 and nearly $40,000 more than she did. A senior manager for Disney music publishing said he learned he made $25,000 less than some men with equivalent degrees. Other women stated that they faced discrimination when they were denied promotions, given smaller pay increases than men, or were classified in lower-ranking jobs compared to men doing similar work.

Of the nine plaintiffs named, five are women of color.

The new statistical analysis was conducted by David Neumark, a University of California, Irvine labor economist and an expert on pay gaps hired by plaintiffs. Her report filed with the court said the ratio of men’s to women’s pay controlled for job level, length of service and other factors that could affect pay, meaning the differences she found stemmed from gender discrimination.

The pay gap is partly due to Disney’s consideration of past wages in setting starting salaries for new hires and its practice of assigning annual merit increases as a percentage of salary, further widening the gender gap. Neumark reports that the gender pay gap was 4.36% when Disney relied on past wages to set starting salaries and after stopping the practice in late 2017, the pay gap has decreased.

Neumark wrote that the estimate of $151 million was significantly less than the losses incurred by the affected women, which would include significant interest costs.

“This year is Disney’s 100th anniversary and it’s about time Disney got serious about addressing the gender pay gap we’ve consistently documented,” said Lori Andrus, a lawyer for the women, whose company has taken over Intel and previously won $4 million. settlement of the difference in payment of Farmers Insurance. For the plaintiffs, some of whom continue to work at Disney, she added, “It is demoralizing and especially damaging to come from a brand like Disney that women in America idolize. They love their job. They love the content that Disney produces and they just want to be paid fairly.”

Shawna M Swanson, associate general counsel and chief employment law function for Disney, denied the latest allegations in an email on Friday, saying, “The plaintiffs’ statements about the alleged pay gap between women and men are simply false, which we will demonstrate through litigation. ” The spokesperson did not address specific claims in Neumark’s analysis.

The company has previously defended its “strong salary equity practices and policies”, and under pressure from some shareholders last year, released its own pay gap report, which said women were paid about the same as men.

The case is one of many class-action pay gap lawsuits against high-profile companies in recent years. Google cleared up

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