From Groper Guests to Weak Wages, Disney Employees Have Many Grievances

Police reports and lawsuits indicate the Mouse House wasn’t the happiest place for everyone last year

Three costumed Disney World workers in Orlando recently filed police reports, claiming tourists groped them while they were performing as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Donald Duck. In November, a man was arrested at the park after a woman playing a Disney Princess says he grabbed her breasts while she posed for a photo with him.

A source at the Anaheim Police Department who was familiar with the events at Disney World told us they personally hadn’t heard of any circumstances like that happening at Disneyland, but “that doesn’t mean it never happened.” A Disney spokesperson issued a statement about the Disney World incidents, saying, “Everyone should feel safe at work, and we encourage Cast Members to come forward in any uncomfortable situation. We provide multiple resources to protect our Cast Members’ well-being, including on-site law enforcement officers who respond, and are available to them, if needed.”

The Florida performers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to employee grievances at the Mouse House.

On December 6, five Disneyland employees filed a class-action suit on behalf of more than 400 fellow staffers, claiming that the Anaheim park failed to pay a living wage in violation of a 2018 ballot measure stating that any hospitality business in the city benefitting from a subsidy must pay employees a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

“A lot of [workers] have to live in their cars, or on people’s couches, because they can’t afford the rent on that wage in the City of Anaheim,” says park barista Kathleen Grace. The New York Times and other publications have reported extensively on employees’ struggles to afford to live in Orange County on Disneyland wages.

The plaintiffs in the class-action suit say Disney is making a killing (more than $35 million a year) from a six-story parking garage located in the resort that Anaheim tax dollars are helping to pay off. Disney contends that the parking lot money is not a subsidy, since most of the taxes going toward its 40-year bond comes from Disney itself.

Even outside the parks, Disney employees have filed lawsuits regarding working conditions. In October, the entertainment behemoth asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to block ten women accusing the company of gender pay discrimination from being able to move forward with a class action suit. Disney claimed that it’s simply too huge for the plaintiffs to represent all of the tens of thousands of women who work for it. That defense, however, suffered a blow when its demurrer was rejected in court.

And life on the high seas was no pleasure cruise for at least one Disney staffer. Former Disney Cruise Lines labor analyst Anthony McHugh filed suit against the conglomerate last December, claiming his younger female boss antagonized him about his age, passed him over for promotions, and called him a “stuffy old fart.” Disney Cruise Lines says the lawsuit is without merit.

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