Two class action lawsuits have been filed against Walt Disney Co. in under two years. Wage and overtime lawyers report that the Disney recently agreed to settle the claims, although a judge must still certify the settlement.
The first lawsuit was filed by Joseph Peralta and Pamela Ventura in 2011, and involved 36 salaried employees who claim they were misclassified as managers or exempt employees so the company could avoid paying overtime wages. The lawsuit covered the six-year period between July 2004 and August 2010. The latest case was filed in 2012, and involves higher-level employees who are claiming the same unjust treatment.
Not only did Disney misclassify these employees as exempt to overtime wages, the plaintiffs claim that Disney gave many of them unreasonable deadlines that made it impossible for them to take breaks as well. Under California labor laws, employees are required to be given 30 minute meal breaks for every five hours worked and 10 minute breaks for every four hours. California law will also require Disney to pay penalties anywhere between $50 to $200 for each incident and each employee in addition to what they are owed in unpaid overtime wages. About 75% of these penalties will be paid to the Labor and Work Force Development Agency, and the other 25% will go to the plaintiffs.
In the first case, all 36 plaintiffs were specifically named in the suit, which led to problems for some of them at work. Because of this, the second case only names the lead plaintiff, Katherine Clay, who is no longer a Disney employee. Clay was a senior financial analyst for Disney, and the plaintiffs in her case all work in various business-related, non-managerial jobs for the company.
This latest case recently settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. A class-action suit was still filed, so a Los Angeles Superior Court judge will still certify the settlement sometime in early 2013. Disney continues to adamantly deny any wrongdoing. Earlier in 2012, Disney was subject to another employee lawsuit, this one accusing Disneyland of bias and unlawful termination.
The plaintiff, Imane Boudlal, began working at Disneyland in 2008. Boudlal is a 24-year-old Moroccan-born Muslim, and was employed at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa Storyteller’s CafÃ©. In the summer of 2008, Boudlal’s co-workers started harassing her, calling her a “terrorist,” “camel,” “bombmaker,” and otherwise taunting her. The woman complained to managers both verbally and in writing, to which she received no reply and no attempted remedial action. In 2010, Boudlal was terminated for refusing to remove her hijab, a religious head scarf, at work.
Boudlal sued Walt Disney Co. in federal court, alleging she was wrongfully
terminated, harassed, and discriminated against for her religious beliefs.
In 2010 Boudlal requested an exemption to Disney’s general appearance
guidelines. After several weeks, supervisors gave Boudlal initial approval
to wear the head scarf, but that it needed to be pre-approved by corporate
before should could wear it. Wanting to recognize the Muslim holiday month
of Ramadan, which began at the end of July and ended the middle of August,
Boudlal wore her hijab on August 15th, before corporate approved the garment.
Her supervisors told her to remove the hijab, cover it with a hat, or
work in the rear of the cafe out of public sight. She has not been scheduled
to work at the cafÃ© since August 21, 2010.
Boudlad refused the requests, saying it demeaned her religion, and filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In August 2012, the agency gave Boudlal approval to sue. Her lawsuit is seeking punitive damages and permanent injunctions requiring Disney to allow employees to wear religious garments, and provide anti-harassment training that includes Muslim issues.
Unfortunately, large corporations such as Disney frequently misclassify employees to avoid paying overtime wages, and allow bias and discrimination against employees of certain religions. Overtime and discrimination attorneys hope that these Disney employees receive due justice for their unfair treatment. If you or someone close to you was the victim of such rights violations in the workplace, consider seeking guidance of an experienced attorney who can inform you of your legal options.