Happiest place on Earth? Not according to women Disney employees, who are suing the company over years of alleged pay discrimination. (Credit: Tuxyso, Wikimedia Commons)

Disney has a pay gap question to answer.

A lawsuit brought by several employees accuses the media giant of routinely underpaying its women staffers 2% less than their male counterparts on average – to the tune of $151.6 million.

”This pay disparity is not based on legitimate factors – it is based on sex, with a less-than-one-in-one-billion chance it occurred in the absence of discrimination,” the court filing reads.

Over 10,000 women at Disney have been impacted since 2015, The Guardian reported. They worked in numerous divisions of the company, from its parks and resorts, to its music label and streaming services. (Some brands under the Disney umbrella, like streaming service Hulu and production company Pixar, have their own pay structures and were excluded from the suit.)

The case was first filed in 2019. This new disclosure comes as part of a more recent filing for class-action status, during which an independent party at the University of California, Irvine, analyzed salaries for men and women employees over the past eight years to verify the women’s claims.

“This year is Disney’s 100th anniversary, and it’s high time that Disney gets serious about addressing the persistent gender wage gap that we have now documented,” Lori Andrus, attorney for the nine primary women plaintiffs in the case, told The Guardian.

Representatives for Disney, however, denied these allegations. “The plaintiffs’ assertions about an alleged pay gap between women and men are simply false, which we will demonstrate through the litigation,” Disney associate general counsel Shawna M. Swanson says. 

Disney is not the only company to make such headlines of late. In 2022, Google agreed to pay out $118 million to settle a similar suit. And finance company Goldman Sachs made a $215 million settlement in its own gender-pay case earlier this year.

Gender-based pay disparities continue to burden American women workers in general, though. In fact, research shows that it’s gone largely unchanged in the last 20 years, with a disproportionate amount of the negative impact felt by women of color.

But, added lawyer Andrus, “it’s … especially damaging when it’s coming from a brand like Disney that women in America idolize. [The women who work there] love their jobs. They love the content that Disney produces – and they just want to be paid fairly.”