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Class action civil rights suit filed over "The Disney Look"
MousePlanet ^ | Monday, June 16, 2008 | Mark Goldhaber

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.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: disney; dresscodes; lawsuit; workplace

1 posted on 06/16/2008 8:03:09 AM PDT by kidd
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To: kidd

The government can’t tell him how to dress but an employer can.


2 posted on 06/16/2008 8:10:37 AM PDT by SgtSki
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To: kidd

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???


3 posted on 06/16/2008 8:14:12 AM PDT by 2banana (My common ground with terrorists - they want to die for islam and we want to kill them)
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To: kidd

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? ;)


4 posted on 06/16/2008 8:14:30 AM PDT by rom (Real Conservatives don't vote for Socialists with an (R) next to their name.)
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To: kidd

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.


5 posted on 06/16/2008 8:17:39 AM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (Islam: Imagine a clown car.........with guns.)
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To: 2banana

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. . .


6 posted on 06/16/2008 8:24:58 AM PDT by Salgak (Acme Lasers presents: The Energizer Border: I dare you to try and cross it. . .)
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To: kidd

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.


7 posted on 06/16/2008 8:25:32 AM PDT by pennboricua
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To: kidd

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.


8 posted on 06/16/2008 8:29:06 AM PDT by popdonnelly (Does Obama know ANYONE who likes America, capitalism, or white people?)
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To: kidd

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...


9 posted on 06/16/2008 8:36:01 AM PDT by Malacoda (A day without a pi$$ed-off muslim is like a day without sunshine.)
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To: Malacoda
Why didn’t they just station him at some “Aladdin” themed area?

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.

10 posted on 06/16/2008 8:42:33 AM PDT by Alouette (Vicious Babushka)
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To: kidd
Hoo Boy, want to watch a lib's head explode?

"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.

11 posted on 06/16/2008 8:43:18 AM PDT by wbill
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To: kidd

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”...


12 posted on 06/16/2008 8:49:47 AM PDT by COBOL2Java ("It's not my fault if McCain loses - it's his own damn fault!" - Mark Levin)
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To: SgtSki

...especially when he is employed to look a certain way.


13 posted on 06/16/2008 8:50:49 AM PDT by ctdonath2 (The average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. - Ratatouille)
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To: kidd

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.....


14 posted on 06/16/2008 9:00:24 AM PDT by SECURE AMERICA (Patriot Guard Riders - Standing for those that stood for us.)
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To: kidd

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.


15 posted on 06/16/2008 9:00:24 AM PDT by TypeZoNegative (Barak Obama: An American African, Not An African-American. (There is a Difference.))
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To: kidd

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.


16 posted on 06/16/2008 9:00:51 AM PDT by illiac (If we don't change directions soon, we'll get where we're going)
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To: 2banana
"Maybe we can get some burkas in there too???"


17 posted on 06/16/2008 9:11:36 AM PDT by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
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To: kidd
Is this the guy here?


18 posted on 06/16/2008 9:13:13 AM PDT by Syncro
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To: kidd

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!


19 posted on 06/16/2008 9:14:06 AM PDT by Nea Wood (I'm not a bad Christian because I refuse to join you in giving other people's stuff away.)
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To: TypeZoNegative

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.


20 posted on 06/16/2008 9:26:21 AM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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To: SgtSki

What about Captain Hook? You cannot discriminate between real people and cartoon characters just on a whim.....:^)


21 posted on 06/16/2008 9:42:28 AM PDT by vimto (To do the right thing you don't have to be intelligent - you have to be brave (Sasz))
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To: TypeZoNegative
Disney, more than any other theme park, puts more attention to detail in the creation of their themes than, say, Six Flags. Each ride has a unique costume, architechure, landscaping, smell, etc. A lot of work goes to create something like the Tower of Terror, it is so much more than a simple elevator drop ride, for example. The intense, layered themeing is what sets Disney apart from other theme parks. The costume is part of that image.

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.

22 posted on 06/16/2008 9:47:28 AM PDT by sportutegrl
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To: kidd

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.


23 posted on 06/16/2008 9:49:31 AM PDT by CodeToad
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To: kidd

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.


24 posted on 06/16/2008 10:06:49 AM PDT by ljco (I think the best possible social program is a job. - The Gipper)
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