December 11, 2023
For Immediate Release
Disney Employees Secure Class Certification in Gender Pay Class Action
Judge also grants plaintiffs’ request to unseal discovery materials
LOS ANGELES, CA – The Honorable Elihu M. Berle of the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles granted in part plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in Rasmussen, et al. v. The Walt Disney Company, et al., a gender pay discrimination class action against The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiaries. The certified class of plaintiffs includes most women who have been or will be employed by Disney, in California, between April 1, 2015 and three months before trial, below the level of Vice President, and in a non-union position with assigned job families and job levels.
Originally filed in 2019 by Andrus Anderson, a California-based consumer and employee rights litigation firm, Cohen Milstein, a national plaintiffs class action law firm, joined the case in 2022, and plaintiffs filed the now-public motion for class certification in June 2023, claiming that Disney deprived the class as a whole of millions in wages in violation of the Fair Employment & Housing Act because its compensation practice caused a disparate impact on women, and in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act because it paid women less than men for substantially similar jobs.
In his ruling, Judge Berle granted class certification as it applies to California’s Equal Pay Act, which does not require plaintiffs to identify the cause of the pay disparities. He also granted plaintiffs’ requests to unseal materials submitted to the Court in connection with class certification, including numerous documents produced in discovery and unredacted expert reports.
Plaintiffs claim, among other things, that Disney employed an enterprise-wide compensation policy, whereby it started out new, female hires at lower salaries than their male counterparts for similar jobs in part because Disney would base starting pay on prior salary, which historically includes gender-based disparities. These figures are substantiated by a now-public economic expert report, filed with the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.
“I am very pleased with the court’s decision to allow this equal pay case to move forward as a class action so we can expose the entrenched pay disparities,” said Christine Webber, co-chair of Cohen Milstein’s Civil Rights & Employment practice. “We look forward to proving that Disney has been systematically underpaying its hard-working female employees. As a class action, we’re in a better position to address these systemic issues and, make an impact for the good of Disney’s employees.”
“It’s encouraging that the court has agreed with our clients that this case should be brought as a class action,” said Lori Andrus, founding partner of Andrus Anderson. “It took a lot of courage for our clients to bring this case against one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates in the first place. So, I’m hopeful that as a class action not only will our clients have their day in court, but also, they will be able to effect a positive change at Disney and end these allegedly discriminatory compensation policies.”
The Walt Disney Company is the world’s largest media company, which includes amusement parks and resorts, media networks, studio entertainment, and consumer products and interactive media.
Plaintiffs, who include long-time employees, claim that, across all its business segments and at all levels of the company, Disney routinely underpays its female employees. Simply put, the plaintiffs allege that Disney values its male employees more than its female employees.
Plaintiffs seek legal and equitable relief under the California Equal Pay Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and California Business & Professions Code §17200, the California Private Attorneys General Act, and various California Labor Codes.
The case name: Rasmussen, et al. v. The Walt Disney Company, et al., Case. No. 19STCV10974, Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles. Read more about the case.
Plaintiffs in this case are also represented by Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian, & Ho.
About Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a premier U.S. plaintiffs’ law firm, with over 100 attorneys across eight offices, champions the causes of real people—workers, consumers, small business owners, investors, and whistleblowers—working to deliver corporate reforms and fair markets for the common good. We have litigated landmark civil rights and employment disputes before the highest courts in the nation and continue to actively shape civil rights and employment law in the United States. For more information visit https://www.cohenmilstein.com/
About Andrus Anderson
Andrus Anderson is dedicated to making the concepts of truth, justice and accountability a reality for each and every client. A national leader in litigation for equal pay, Andrus Anderson is a law firm that will stand up to corporate giants and fight tirelessly to see individual rights prevail over corporate and governmental misconduct, greed and abuse. For more information visit https://andrusanderson.com/