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For businesses large and small, gender pay gap lawsuits can be a real problem with no real explanation for why they exist, like other systemic discrimination and disparate treatment claims.
Last year, Disney released dismal statistics in the UK about the company's gender pay gap, showing that men made 22 percent more than women for the same work. And now, the company is facing a potential class action lawsuit alleging that a similar gender pay gap exists in the United States.
Another Historical Blemish
While the recently filed case is still merely allegations at this stage, the data released out of the UK was part of a required legal disclosure that Disney had to make (which probably answers your question about why Disney would ever release that statistic). However, given those numbers, and the allegations in the lawsuit, it doesn't look good for Disney.
The case was filed in California and claims that Disney's policies are discriminatory. It seeks to represent every woman employed by Disney in California from 2015 to present. One of the policies identified as discriminatory involves the setting of salary at hire. The lawsuit alleges that Disney's practice of basing pay for hires off the hire's salary history is discriminatory because of the disparate impact on women.
Disparate Impact Claims
To most people, the above policy sounds gender neutral. In fact, on its face, a policy of basing a new hire's pay off their salary history from other jobs is objectively based and grounded in sound economic bargaining principles. However, the actual impact of this type of policy results in women categorically getting paid less for the same work because of the historical gender pay gap.
Despite there not being any "traditional" or intentional discrimination, when there is a discriminatory impact, those policies can be considered discriminatory. Disparate impact claims come in other forms as well, such as claims involving age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, and any other protected category of individual.