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Lawsuit Could Open Up Fox and Disney to a Pay Discrimination Investigation

Illustration for article titled Lawsuit Could Open Up Fox and Disney to a Pay Discrimination Investigation
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

Back in April two employees at the Walt Disney Company, LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore, filed a lawsuit alleging that the company paid female workers unfairly, and demanding backpay and lost compensation. On Wednesday, their pay equity lawsuit moved closer to class-action certification, after a hearing in downtown Los Angeles that removed Disney’s petition to strike and otherwise narrow the case.

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“We allege that this problem of pay discrepancy run throughs Disney’s business,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer Lori Andrus told the court on Wednesday, according to Deadline. “This is a matter of billions of dollars being kept out of the California economy.”

The scope of the lawsuit, however, is exactly what the company is worried about. Disney has more than 60,000 employees in California, and if the suit moves forward, every level of the company—including subsidiary Fox, which was acquired in March for more than $71 billion—could be subject to discovery. Disney lawyers say it’s unreasonable to investigate a business of that size for pay discrepancy, making it impossible for the company to adequately defend itself. Felicia Davis, who Deadline described as “Disney’s clearly displeased main lawyer,” argued that the lawsuit “should be dismissed or narrowed” by the judge.

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While the class-action certification hasn’t been granted, the argument that a mammoth structure prevents a serious investigation didn’t pass the muster of Judge Daniel Buckley. “Their theory is women are paid less than men, you know exactly what they are complaining about,” Buckley said.

Buckley set the next meeting for January 14, setting an initial discovery schedule. “It allows us to start looking at proper discovery of everything else,” Buckley said.

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Story time! Worked at Disney for a bit. Supervisors always told us that the company only allows for a 2-3% merit raise for employees each year, basically 3% if you were great, 2% if you were just okay. They only told this to us verbally, never showed it to us in writing anywhere.

A coworker who was chummy with a Disney exec finds out that apparently this 2-3% merit raise thing is just a myth, that our supervisor actually got higher than that (coworker claimed that exec said that supervisor got 4%, but also later showed documentation it less but still above 3%, so it’s somewhere in-between there). Anyways, coworker uses same info to get a 5% raise, while same supervisors/execs are telling the rest of us it’s only 2-3%.