Star Wars – A Gender Pay Discrimination Lawsuit Awakens?

For his work on the newest Star Wars movie The Force Awakens, Harrison Ford reportedly made more than $10 million. His co-star Daisy Ridley, on the other hand, reportedly made in the low-mid six figures.

The so-called Hollywood gender pay gap has been in the news lately. Might Daisy Ridley have a legal claim for gender pay discrimination under New York law (which may or may not apply here)?

Even disregarding the fact that Mr. Ford’s pay also dwarfed his other co-stars’ pay – including that of both Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and John Boyega – the answer is likely no.

This would arguably be so, even under New York’s recently-amended gender pay law, NY Labor Law section 194. That statute, as amended (which will go into effect in its amended form in January 2016) provides, in pertinent part:

No employee shall be paid a wage at a rate less than the rate at
which an employee of the opposite sex in the same establishment is paid for equal work on a job the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working
conditions, except where payment is made pursuant to a differential
based on:

a. a seniority system;

b. a merit system;

c. a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of
production; or

d. a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or
experience. …

Mr. Ford’s employer’s attorneys could likely successfully argue that the pay differential was based on, at the very least, his “education, training, or experience.” That, and the fact that casting Mr. Ford as smuggler Han Solo was integral to reconnecting with Star Wars’ (ahem) aging fan base. As long as the pay differential is based on (e.g.) “a bona fide factor other than sex” – which it likely would be here – no claim would properly lie.

This is, of course, a purely hypothetical exercise based on a number of assumptions – that New York law applies, that Labor Law 194 would apply in its amended form, etc. This isn’t legal advice.