A class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that Disney systematically pays women less than men and argues that the entertainment giant “tends to value male workers more than female workers,” according to the complaint, obtained by Variety and The New York Times.
LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore, the two Disney employees named in the lawsuit, say the company paid them significantly less than their male counterparts performing the same work, by a gap as high as $40,000 per year.
In addition to demanding lost compensation and benefits, they want a company-wide effort to “remedy the effects of Disney’s past and present unlawful employment policies.”
According to the complaint, a company audit requested by Rasmussen revealed that women were being paid less across the board, in part because of a policy that sets new employees’ salaries based on their salary history at previous employers — a common corporate mechanism that perpetuates the gender pay gap in many industries.
Disney denied the claims in a statement, saying that “the lawsuit is without merit and we will defend against it vigorously.”
Andrus Anderson, the law firm representing the Disney employees, has also sued other major companies for underpaying female employees, including Intel and Farmers Insurance. The firm asked for the Disney lawsuit to represent all female employees working at the company since 2015.
They filed the class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles on Tuesday, which was Equal Pay Day, marking the point in the new year when women’s earnings catch up to what their male counterparts were paid the prior year. The gender pay gap is even wider for women of color.
In the U.K., where companies are now required to publicly release salary information, male employees at Disney are being paid 22 percent more than women, according to Deadline.
On Monday, California announced an initiative to combat the gender pay gap. As part of the program, in conjunction with the Time’s Up initiative, more than a dozen California-based companies, including Apple and Airbnb, have pledged to conduct annual audits of their own gender pay gaps.