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Happiest Place On Earth? Not for Disney’s Employees

Disneyland might be a place where dreams come true, but for the employees working behind the scenes, it doesn’t seem so magical. The Walt Disney Company has faced multiple lawsuits from past and current employees for alleged discrimination, civil rights violations, and hostile work environments in the past. The latest lawsuit involves more than 35,000 Disney employees and the company’s failure to pay out promised $1,000 bonuses. Find out why Disneyland might not be the Happiest Place On Earth…at least for employees.

Disney’s History of Workplace Discrimination

Disney has a long history of employment-related lawsuits. Employees have brought lawsuits against the company for wage discrimination, unfair labor practices, safety violations, and more. Despite being one of the most popular and profitable theme parks on the planet (the Walt Disney Company posted $9.3 billion in profits, after tax, in 2017), Disney does not always treat its workers fairly.

Just recently, a former employee brought a lawsuit accusing Disney of discriminating against him for his nation of origin, Morocco. The plaintiff, Abderrahmane Sebti, worked at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex until his termination in 2014. His lawsuit alleges that Disney created a hostile work environment by prohibiting him from praying during Ramadan fasting, as well as infringed on his civil rights by denying promotions.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, Sebti also found a noose made from duct tape on his office chair as well as damage to his vehicle in 2012. Sebti worked for Disney since 1989 until his date of termination. Sebti is asking for $75,000 in damages against his former employer, which includes reimbursement for lost wages, mental distress, and damages to his reputation as a professional. This is just one in a string of employment lawsuits Disney has faced over the years. Now, thousands of employees are coming together against Disney for its latest infraction – a wage dispute.

The Latest Employment Suit Against Disney

In February 2018, the Services Trade Council filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney Co. for skirting employee demands for higher wages with a bonus as a bargaining chip. The Services Trade Council is a coalition of unions, covering more than 35,000 Disney employees, that represents Disney World Resorts workers. The Council alleged that Disney turned a $1,000 bonus that it promised workers into a bargaining chip, taking it away due to the Republican tax cut.

Meanwhile, in California, a union representing 2,700 Disney employees filed its own lawsuit against the company with the National Labor Relations Board for the same reason. Evidently, the “Happiest Place On Earth” used the recent tax cuts as leverage against giving employees their desired wage increases. Unions and the Walt Disney Company have been in talks since the summer of 2017, but have yet to come to an agreement.

The most recent wage-related lawsuit states that Disney unfairly threatened to take away the $1,000 bonuses it promised to 125,000 employees earlier in the year. Previous negotiations resulted in Disney offering a raise of 50 cents per hour or a 3% wage increase (whichever is greater). The union rejected this proposal, at which point Disney returned with the same offer, as well as a deadline for the union to decide by the end of August or lose the $1,000 bonuses.

Disney is within its rights to withhold the bonus according to some experts. Since the bonuses weren’t regular occurrences at the workplace, Disney is not guilty of taking anything away from employees. It could be a challenge for unions to win their current cases regarding the $1,000 bonuses – as well as to convince the Walt Disney Company to offer fair pay raises to union workers. For more information about the ongoing Disney employment lawsuits, contact an attorney.

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