Plaintiffs in Gender Pay Gap Lawsuit Accuse Disney of Withholding Documents

Shannen Ace

Plaintiffs in Gender Pay Gap Lawsuit Accuse Disney of Withholding Documents

In a Monday morning hearing, lawyers accused Disney of refusing to hand over requested documents in the $300 million gender pay gap class action lawsuit first filed against The Walt Disney Company five years ago.

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According to Deadline, a virtual hearing was held in LA Superior Court on June 24 between lawyers for plaintiffs LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore, and attorneys from Paul Hastings LLP.

“Disney has inappropriately withheld or redacted hundreds of documents on the basis of attorney-client privilege and work product protection,” the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer Lori Andrus said in a May 16 motion to compel filing. “Disney’s formulaic and vague descriptions of why documents were withheld are not sufficient to justify withholding the documents, and the Court should issue an order requiring Disney to produce the documents and redacted information.”

The hearing comes less than a year before the trial is expected to start on May 5, 2025.

Andrus Anderson LLP filed the initial lawsuit on behalf of Disney employees Rasmussen and Moore in 2019. LASC Judge Elihu M. Berle ruled in December 2023 that it could become a class action suit.

A class notice was sent to probable plaintiffs on April 25, 2024. It does not include women employed at Hulu, ESPN, Pixar, and Fox assets. June 24 is the last day for plaintiffs to opt out of the case.

The lawsuit alleges that Disney knowingly violated the Fair Employment & Housing Act and California’s Equal Pay Act by paying female employees less than male employees. The lawsuit could result in Disney paying over $300 million.

In their June 10 response to the plaintiffs’ motion, Disney said, “At bottom, the (mostly new) challenges raised in Plaintiffs’ Motion are based on nothing more than ‘we do not believe you.’ This is not sufficient.”

“Nor do Plaintiffs’ misleading ‘examples’ carry the day (for example, addressing only some entries in a chain and ignoring others—including emails to and from counsel—that clearly support the privilege),” said attorney Felicia Davis. “And their ‘categorical challenges’ obscure the fact that Plaintiffs ask the Court to order production of more than five hundred entries where attorneys are either the writer or the recipient of the email, or the author of the document.”

The plaintiffs’ filings indicate they are seeking emails and other correspondence between non-lawyer executives that discuss pay equity issues at Disney.

Earlier this month, the plaintiffs said they have served all the written discovery they expect to. Andrus said, however, they have “identified two additional individuals whose depositions we would like to schedule in the near future, and will be adding to this list over the next several weeks.” He also said the plaintiffs “reserve the right to serve additional, very targeted requests based on what we learn from responses to the discovery served or in deposition.”

Disney and the plaintiffs requested another status conference before Judge Berle the week of September 9.

Other Disney employees recently sued them over the company’s canceled move from California to Florida.

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