This article was updated after publication to correct the dates on which the lawsuit expanded, and when one of the plaintiffs, Nancy Dolan, joined the suit. The suit expanded in September.
Ten female employees who sued the Walt Disney Company over pay inequality between female and male employees have pushed back against Disney’s efforts to squash a potential class action lawsuit.
In an opposition filed on Wednesday, the plaintiffs said that their claims must be “investigated, not dismissed.”
“Disney’s contention that pay disparities between its male and female employees could be the result of seniority, education, or some other bona fide factor other than sex … is pure conjecture and not a proper basis for demurrer,” the opposition states. “The policy behind California’s Equal Pay Act is clear: the centuries-old practice of underpaying women is harming women and is also harming the State’s economic health. … The allegations included in Plaintiffs’ Complaint clearly set forth all the elements required under the Equal Pay Act.”
In a statement sent to TheWrap, a spokesperson for Disney said, “Disney is firmly committed to equitable pay and is prepared to engage with any individual who believes they are not paid equally. To suit their own purposes, plaintiffs’ counsel has wholly mischaracterized the company’s motion. What Disney is challenging is plaintiffs’ counsel’s attempt to invoke a class action procedure that is unsuited to the resolution of claims that are, by their nature, inherently individualized. In fact, we are not aware of any court that has approved this class action approach in similar cases.”
The pay discrimination lawsuit was initially filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in April on behalf of two Walt Disney Studios employees: LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore. According to the filing, Rasmussen has worked at Disney for 11 years, most recently as a product development manager at Walt Disney Studios. Moore has worked for Disney for 23 years, serving as a senior copyright admin administrator at the studio’s music group.
In September, the number of plaintiffs grew to 10 women who are employed across Disney’s portfolio, including Hollywood Records, Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Studios and Disney ABC Television. With the number of plaintiffs, there is the potential for a class-action lawsuit against Disney. (Andrus Anderson LLP, who represents the plaintiffs, has encouraged any female Disney employee who have experienced pay discrimination to join the class-action lawsuit.)
Last month, Disney attempted to throw out the lawsuit by arguing that it was too large to litigate: “No California court has certified a pay class action under any law that seeks to include such an enormous number of women who work (or worked) in such markedly different jobs, requiring markedly different skills, effort and responsibility, across such markedly different lines of business,” attorneys for Disney wrote in a demurrer filed at that time.
For Nancy Dolan, one of the women who joined the suit in September, the wage gap has had a “demoralizing” effect.
“Being underpaid and undervalued year after year has a very real cumulative effect, financially,” Dolan said in a statement in September. “It’s also demoralizing and emotionally draining. It’s time for Disney to join the dozens of California companies who have pledged to pay their women workers fairly.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.