Disney sued by whistleblower fired for reporting sexual harassment

Posted in Sexual Harassment on March 28, 2013

Reporting sexual harassment in the workplace can be scary. Victims of sexual harassment may be hesitant to report it to human resources due to embarrassment, shame or worry that they could be fired or disciplined for it.

Similarly, coworkers who are aware of sexual harassment or allegations may be hesitant to say anything due to fears of retaliation. Sadly, these fears often come true for those with the courage to speak up.

Last month, a former archivist for the Walt Disney Company filed a lawsuit in central California alleging that he was fired for reporting a sexual harassment complaint that one of his subordinates had shared with him. In addition to retaliation, the man also alleges that Disney blackballed him and made it impossible to be hired for other work as an archivist.

In August of 2011, a male subordinate had a conversation with the plaintiff. During that conversation, the man disclosed that a female coworker had made unwanted advances toward him. The alleged harasser and the alleged victim had once been in a relationship together, but the plaintiff claims he had no knowledge of this.

One month after reporting the conversation to human resources, the plaintiff was fired. Disney allegedly claimed that he was fired for improperly filling out the harassment victim’s hiring paperwork and for “lying” about his lack of knowledge that the harasser and the victim had a previous relationship.

In his lawsuit, the plaintiff says he was not the one who filled out that paperwork, and that even if he had known about the relationship, it would have no bearing on the situation.

Disney is such a large and well-known company that the outcome of this lawsuit could have huge implications for other whistleblowers who report sexual harassment. At the very least, this high-profile case will likely bring attention to sexual harassment in the workplace and the responsibility of supervisors to report it.

Source: The Wrap, “Disney Sued for Alleged Retaliation in Sexual Harassment Claim,” Tim Kenneally, Feb. 27, 2013