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Disney Headed to Court Over COVID Mandates

Disney Lawsuit Covid Mandate
Credit: ABC

In March 2020, the world shut down as the COVID-19 virus swept across the globe. The only businesses allowed to remain open in most parts of the United States were those considered “essential”. Not only did every Disney theme park have to close its gates, but the entertainment industry also shut down. That meant every Disney-owned movie and television show was paused indefinitely.

Nearly one year later, the entertainment industry slowly began to reopen, but there were many strict protocols in place. Once the COVID-19 vaccine became more widely available, many studios began requiring their cast and crew members to get vaccinated. That included Disney and every production studio it owned, including Fox, Marvel, LucasFilm, ABC, and more.

Covid Disney masks

Credit: Disney

Those who refused to get vaccinated had to ask for an exemption and explain why they could not get vaccinated. Disney would then review those requests and either approve or deny them. Those denied the exemption were required to get vaccinated and, if they did not, were terminated.

Disney’s vaccine mandates have led to several lawsuits being filed against the company by both actors and behind-the-scenes crew members, who claim they were wrongfully terminated. Most of the lawsuits claim that Disney wrongfully denied religious exemption requests. Some of those lawsuits have been dismissed, but one is headed to court.

General Hospital

Credit: ABC

Related: More Fired Cast Members Join Vaccination Lawsuit Against Disney

According to Variety, a judge has denied Disney’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a father and son who worked on the hit ABC soap opera, General Hospital.

James Wahl and Timothy Wahl claim they asked for a religious exemption when told they needed to get vaccinated. Disney told the court that it could not issue a vaccine exemption because of the strict guidelines they had to follow so they could resume film and television productions.

General Hospital

Credit: ABC

Per Variety:

The judge seemed to question whether ABC had made an effort to accomodate the pair and whether it overstated the risk the Walhs posed to “General Hospital” cast and crew members.

“Defendant argues that Plaintiffs could not have been accommodated because they could not maintain a distance of six feet from others. Interpreting the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, however, they were only in close proximity to others for between 30 seconds to several minutes while Plaintiffs were masked and testing regularly and the people with whom they had contact were vaccinated,” Goorvitch wrote. “Defendant’s own evidence suggests that vaccines were highly effective. This gives rise to a triable issue whether Plaintiffs posed an undue risk under these circumstances.” Similarly, Defendant argues that ‘the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus was prevalent’ during the fall of 2021, but again, whether Plaintiffs’ measures and the cast/crew’s vaccinations were
sufficient is a triable issue. Defendant’s arguments must be made to the jury.”

general hospital

Credit: ABC

This is not the only lawsuit that Disney has faced by the cast and crew of General Hospital. In December 2021, Ingo Rademacher — who played Jasper Jax — claimed that Disney and ABC fired him after he refused to get vaccinated. Rademacher made multiple claims in his lawsuit, including medical condition and religious discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and violations of his right to privacy.

Disney argued that Rademacher did not have any actual religious beliefs that validated not to get the COVID vaccine. The actor cited a book called Revelations of Ramala, but admitted that he had not read it in more than 30 years. A judge dismissed Rademacher’s lawsuit in April 2023, agreeing that Rademacher had no religious claims, and Disney/ABC were validated in firing him.

Rockmond Dunbar

Credit: FOX

Then, in 2022, 9-1-1 star, Rockmond Dunbar, sued Disney for wrongful termination after he was fired from the hit FOX show. Dunbar first requested a medical exemption, which was denied. He then requested a religious exemption, which Disney also denied. Dunbar claims to be a member of the Church of Universal Wisdom, which does not allow the injection of man-made substances.

Dunbar’s lawsuit against Disney is still ongoing.

Disney lifted its vaccine requirement for cast and crew members in November 2022.

Do you think Disney handled its vaccine requirement appropriately? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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