Skip to comments.Class action civil rights suit filed over "The Disney Look"
Posted on 06/16/2008 8:03:09 AM PDT by kidd
Most Disney fans can tell you about "The Disney Look," the list of strict grooming standards that must be adhered to by all cast members who work "on-stage" or in view of park guests. Disney is now facing a civil rights class-action lawsuit over those standards.
Sukhbir Singh Channa, a practicing Sikh, wears a turban and has a beard and long hair in keeping with his religious beliefs. According to the suit, while a student at the University of South Florida, he was hired by Walt Disney World as a seasonal college musician in October 2005, which involves parade and atmospheric performances. While performing onstage in parades, he was in a toy soldier costume, with the soldier hat covering his turban and the soldier head hiding his beard. At first, he was allowed to wear a red turban instead of the standard red beret in atmospheric performances, but he was removed from the atmospheric position due to not complying with "The Disney Look."
Channa was terminated in early 2006 on the grounds of violating the grooming standards, and when he applied for reinstatement as a seasonal musician in October 2006, he was denied on the same basis. The lawsuit, filed by Miami attorney Matt Sarelson in Hillsborough County circuit court on behalf of Channa and the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF), alleges that Disney is violating the Florida Civil Rights Act. The suit seeks damages of at least $1 million and asks that the court prevent Disney from discriminating against Sikh employees and prospective employees.
This is an interesting case, because Disney portrays the positions as "roles in a show," with "on-stage" and "backstage" positions in the performance that is the theme parks and resorts. In an actual theatrical performance, each role has a specified appearance that is required by the writer, director or producer. However, will the courts find that Disney's grooming standards for on-stage cast members comprise a reasonable appearance requirement for a performance role or will they determine that it's a discriminatory guideline for everyday employee positions. There's no doubt that Disney does portray their cast members as all complying with "The Disney Look," but is that enough of a justification for the courts? If they find in favor of Channa, does that mean that Disney can't hold the rest of their cast members to the same standard?
Walt Disney World spokewoman Jacquee Polak told MousePlanet that Disney is still reviewing the situation, and will provide a statement some time today. When we receive the statement, I will post it to my blog with a link from MousePlanet's front page and we will report it both on Thursday's MousePlanetWatch Disney News episode of the MouseStation Podcast and in next Monday's Park Update.
The government can’t tell him how to dress but an employer can.
Just what I want to see when I go to disney (and pay the very big bucks)
Turbins and beards of Sikhs and muslims in the parades and plays...
Maybe we can get some burkas in there too???
An employer should be able to determine this, especially for theatrical performances. He isn’t sitting in a cubicle writing code, or doing the books!
And $1mil in damages for a seasonal college musician? What was his salary? Probably $7/hour? ;)
I tend to like Sikhs, and I dislike Disney, but I hope this whiner loses and it costs him a lot of money to pay his idiot attorney.
You might want to dial back the prejudice a bit. Sikhs are NOT Muslims, and are some of our best allies in the region.
Furthermore, Sikh’s are a honorable warrior culture that works well with our own. I had several Sikh colleagues when I was enlisted in the Army, and as an officer in the Air Force. You rarely find better soldiers, and despite looking similar, they are NOT Muslims. . .
since he has the beard and turban he would fit very well as one of the forty thieves, no, no, not politically correct, never mind.
An employer should have the right to set standards that are appropriate to the job. Even the Supreme Court has said that men don’t have a right to work at Hooters.
Why didn’t they just station him at some “Aladdin” themed area? Half the people at the park wouldn’t know the difference between a Sikh and a mooselimb...
That would offend the Muslims.
BTW my granddaughters visited Disneyland earlier this year and "Princess Jasmine" was wearing some burka-type coverup instead of the belly dancing outfit that she wears in the movie. "Pocahontas" was also more covered up in a long-sleeved fringed dress and buckskin boots. I'm inclined to think they wear those alternative outfits for chilly weather.
"What to do, what to do. Must be sensitive to diversity and all inclusive. But the employee manual says...."
I think that it's interesting to see that this gentleman was fired. Money talks, BS walks.
He should have worn a rainbow t-shirt and an earring in his right ear; then he’d fit in perfectly with the new “Disney Look”...
...especially when he is employed to look a certain way.
Sorry to hurt your feeling loser, but the rules were not put in because of you, so dont feel so self importan. The rules exist for a legit reason and if you want the job follow them. If not then move on and bother someone else.
Tired if these losers thinking everything is about them.....
Businesses are required by law to make reasonable exceptions to their rules. For instance, if I’m fair skinned and prone to skin cancer and I work in a health club and the club’s uniform standards say that I can’t wear a long sleeved shirt on the job, and they make me try to clean the tanning booth and disallow me from wearing my long sleeved shirt that I use to prevent against sunburn and skin cancer, my health club that I work for by law, has to allow me to wear my long sleeved shirt.
If I’m Jewish, and I wear a yarmulke, by law, a business cannot tell me I can’t wear the yarmulke unless the yarmulke makes my job difficult.
As long as the special need doesn’t impede with the quality of my work, legally, the owners or supervisors would have to cater to that special need. It would be a different story if his beard impeded with the quality of his job.
Nobody should have to be fired for not fitting some silly archaic standard of conformity as long as the deviation causes no harm.
Disney’s in deep doo doo, and it couldn’t happen to a worse company.
Anyone who wants a job must adhere to the standards of their employer. This is just another case of someone wanting the courts and government to provide for them. As has been said many times.... you are responsible for your own life.
Time these idiots take control of their own lives.
I think I will apply to be Tinkerbell at Disney. The fact that I am middle aged, look nothing like Tinkerbell, and would not look awesome in the teeny little Tinkerbell dress should not matter at all. If they won’t hire me, I’ll file a lawsuit!
Nonsense. He’s playing a part in a staged production and is playing a character. It’s entirely reasonable to insist that his costume be consistent with the theme.
If he’s not willing to wear the costume, he’s welcome to look for a different job elsewhere.
What about Captain Hook? You cannot discriminate between real people and cartoon characters just on a whim.....:^)
Also, Disney does not lose these lawsuits. I read an ABA article some years ago that the Disney legal team is unstoppable. They will fight to the death every single lawsuit, because to lose one is to invite a million more. They will always have the suit on their own turf, in Orlando, with a jury made of friends and relatives of Disney workers or other people who benefit from the effect WDW has on the area.
If the courts decide that grooming standard cannot apply imagine the turmoil in the business sector. That could lead to “education standrds”, “competency standards”, etc. Pretty soon we will all be Government Union thugs that can never be fired just like in France.
Just a shot in the dark here - but I’m guessing that Matt Sarelson just sees a bunch of dollar signs in front of him and unfortunately he’s duped this “plaintiff” who makes about $9 an hour into about $300K in leagal fees just to get the case thrown out. Sad.