When Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, the company not only gained the rights to Fox’s film library, it also became the owner of a number of successful television shows. One of those shows was 9-1-1, which has been on the air since 2018. One of the show’s main characters was Michael Grant, played by Rockmond Dunbar. Dunbar had been on 9-1-1 since its premiere, and fans were shocked when it was announced that the actor would be leaving the series at the end of the fifth season.
When the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available, many companies began instituting mandatory vaccination policies. One of those companies was The Walt Disney Company. Dunbar requested a medical exemption, so he did not have to get the vaccine, which was denied. He then applied for a religious exemption, which Disney denied yet again. Dunbar continued to refuse the vaccine, and Disney promptly ended his contract.
Dunbar has now filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company. Dunbar claims that he is a member of the Church of Universal Wisdom, in which its members do not believe in injecting any man-made substances into the body. According to Dunbar’s lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court, and reported by Deadline:
“In retaliation, Defendants summarily terminated Mr. Dunbar’s employment agreement, and refused to pay him the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are still owed to him,” the lawsuit, which references a Deadline article numerous times, reads. “Then, wanting to make an example out of Mr. Dunbar, he believes that Defendants wrongfully leaked negative information to the media about his departure from ‘9-1-1’ including that he sought both religious and medical exemptions that were denied. Defendants deliberately made it sound like Mr. Dunbar was a recalcitrant anti-vaxxer, rather than present the truth – that like millions of other Americans, he is a sincere adherent to a non-mainstream religious belief that prevents him from being vaccinated.”
“On information and belief, Disney has a history of racial discrimination, and Mr. Dunbar was subjected to disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination on the basis of his race,” the 45-page filing reads. “On information and belief, non-minority employees similarly situated were not subject to termination when they refused the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Dunbar is seeking $1.3 million in damages from Disney. Disney did not comment on the litigation in particular, but did issue the following response:
“We take the health and safety of all of our employees very seriously, and have implemented a mandatory vaccination confirmation process for those working in Zone A on our productions. In order to ensure a safer workplace for all, Zone A personnel who do not confirm their vaccination status and do not meet the criteria for exemption will not be eligible to work.”
Dunbar is not the first Disney actor to leave amidst vaccination requirements. Recently, it was announced that Emilio Estevez would not be returning to season two of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, although the actor has said that he is not anti-vax and his departure was merely due to creative differences.
Disney has also reportedly had issues with Letitia Wright, star of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. While James is not required to be vaccinated because the film was in production before the mandate went into place, rumors were swirling that she was vocal about her anti-vaccination beliefs on set. The actress has denied those claims.