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Disney Sued by One of Its Vice Presidents for Sexual Orientation Discrimination 

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Disney was accused of sexual orientation discrimination and sued by Joel Hopkins, one of ABC Signature Studios’ vice presidents, after he filed a complaint on Tuesday.

According to the complaint, the discrimination put Hopkins on a dead-end career track. He said that he was repeatedly denied promotions.

While Disney was recognised as the parent company; Walt Disney Studios, ABC Signature Studios Inc., and Riverside Television Services LLC were named as defendants.

“After his sexual orientation became known to his superiors and after being discriminated against, and after being put on a dead-end career track and repeatedly denied promotions with no remedy or relief from HR, Plaintiff is informed and believes that yet again, in or around April, several promotions occurred, but Plaintiff once again was not promoted”, the complaint, filed by Hopkins’ attorneys Omid Nosrati and Michael Zarocostas, read.

The 10-page lawsuit stated that the company had violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. It stated that Hopkins started working around 1994 as the director of production finance for Buena Vista Television.

“Within six years of his employment, Plaintiff received two promotions. In or around 1997, Plaintiff was promoted to Executive Director. In or around the middle of 2000, Plaintiff was hired by Jim Hedges [senior vice president of finance for ABC Entertainment Group] and promoted to Vice-President of Production Finance for Touchstone Television,” the complaint read.

It was around this time that Hopkins’ sexual orientation as a gay person came to be known by several members of the company. Discriminatory attitudes followed for approximately 20 years, including “being passed over for promotions and not being paid at a level commensurate with other department heads”.

As per Hopkins’ complaint, he was not considered for certain positions and instead, the defendants hired less-experienced individuals. Hopkins adds that he was subjected to a “hostile environment” by “being falsely blamed for issues that were not even in scope of his responsibilty”.

Additionally, he was humiliated by being “forced into an unorthodox hierarchy” wherein he was made to report to vice presidents with less experience and even straight male, apart from being denied the ability to manage the performances of the subordinates, let alone from merit and bonus planning.

The company “impaired his authority and reputation” and despite several direct complaints to the Human Resource department, no relief was provided. No training, nor any educational program was conducted to tackle discrimination at the organisational level.

Hopkins sought compensatory damages, if the earnings that he was denied due to no promotion was considered during the trial. It also includes the legal costs.

There has been no official response from the Disney group. The revelation comes as an irony to the recent Launchpad show on Disney+. The series, a collection of six short films, is a step towards Disney’s inclusion and diversity with one of them, titled A Little Prince(ss), directed towards inculcating positive gender behaviour.

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