Western Digital settles gender bias class action for $7.75m

Final approval has been granted to a Western Digital settlement of a class action lawsuit, which accused the company of underpaying female staff and discriminating against them in pay, promotions, and placement.

Western Digital will pay $7.75m – $5m to 1863 female employees, and most of the rest to their law firm. In addition, the company will undertake “sweeping programmatic measures to help eliminate gender disparities and foster equal employment opportunity going forward”.

The lawsuit was bought by Yunghui Chen, who  joined WD’s Audit Department in 2005 and resigned in September 2016, having been promoted to Internal Audit Manager in 2008.

She alleged that Western Digital “paid her $30,000 less than her male counterparts performing equal and substantially similar work and refused to promote her to Senior Manager, despite promoting similarly situated, less-qualified men.” 

Her class action lawsuit, filed in May 2019, stated: “Men dominate Defendants’ leadership and management. Upon information and belief, the overrepresentation of men in Defendants’ leadership is both the source and product of continuing systemic discrimination against female employees.”

Also, Western Digital’s “compensation, promotions, and placement policies and practices have resulted in and perpetuated longstanding, company-wide gender discrimination and sex-based disparities with respect to pay, promotions, and job placement.”

The company relies “on a tap-on-the shoulder promotion process that disparately impacts women and encourages the predominantly male management to engage in a pattern of disparate treatment. Rather than posting open positions, managers evaluate which, if any, of their reporting employees should be placed into them.”

Where the money goes

The $7.75m settlement will be disbursed to several groups of people;

  • $4,811,667 goes to California-based female employees of WD and related companies at or below the senior management level after November 1, 2012, and also to female employees of WD elsewhere in the USA with similar posts since November 1, 2013,
  • $2,583,333 at a maximum goes to class counsel in attorneys fees,
  • $97,324 goes to them for for litigation costs,
  • $180,000 at maximum to Chen for her litigation costs,
  • $18,000 service award to Chen,
  • $50,000 for Class Administrator’s fees and costs,
  • $75,000 for PAGA costs.

Any remaining money goes to a couple of legal aid charities.

The 1,863 individual class action members (plaintiffs) and they will get $3,615 each on average. The precise amount will depend upon their employment duration and pay rate.

Interested parties with Pacer access can read the final settlement document or by looking up Chen v. Western Digital Corp., C.D. Cal., No. 8:19-cv-00909, final approval of class settlement 1/5/21.