Courtesy : The New York Times
Ten female employees at the Walt Disney Company are demanding a chance to hold a statistical analysis of data of pay that would prove disparities they alleged that occur throughout the studio's workforce.
These women are leading a proposed class action against the conglomerate for allegedly violating California's Fair Pay Act. The present question before a Los Angeles judge is whether there exists enough commonality among the plaintiffs' employment situations to have the case move forward as a group activity.
In a motion filed in October, Disney attacked an amended complaint as an "assortment of individual claims, based on highly individualized allegations," further arguing that these 10 women working at various divisions of the company shouldn't be able to represent other female employees who work in animation, cable programming, cruise lines, vacation clubs, restaurants and so forth.
It's not just an argument premised on "We're too big to sue"; Disney contends that wage differentials among men and women are difficult to assess when seniority, merit, and other factors come into play. Disney suggests that adjudicating claims on an individual basis would be more appropriate.
The suit presents a test of California's Fair Pay Act, which was amended in 2015 upon the recognition that the law was rarely utilized because succeeding on a claim was too difficult.
"The Legislature has spoken," states an opposition brief filed on Wednesday. "Ten Women have spoken. Now it is up to the Court — exercising its broad authority to effectuate the statute's intent — to determine whether Plaintiffs have adequately stated a claim under the Equal Pay Act for their case to proceed. They have."
"Pay equity audits are so effective at addressing potential violations of equal pay laws that law firms advising corporations about compliance routinely recommend them," continues the opposition brief. "At a minimum, Plaintiffs anticipate that a statistical analysis of Disney's pay data will show that women are paid less than their male counterparts even within job titles at Disney."
As for Disney's size and structure, the brief adds, "It is true that Disney employs a large workforce, but even in a big company, there is order. For example, Disney organizes i[t]s employees by job title (e.g., Manager, Senior Manager, Director). Each job title is associated with a salary range Plaintiffs allege a pattern of Disney placing women at the lower end of each salary range. Once the Plaintiffs have access to Disney's compensation data, they will be able to conduct a statistical analysis to prove the truth of those allegations."
As for legitimate differences in pay that may arise from bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience, the plaintiffs say that any defenses are "pure conjecture."
As the women put it, "Disney hopes to prevent any scrutiny of its compensation data by litigating its potential defenses before Plaintiffs have had the opportunity to prove their prima facie case. Disney cannot justify a demurrer by placing the cart before the horse."