A former member of Disney’s housekeeping staff (sometimes called Mousekeeping staff) has sued Disney, alleging discrimination related to his needs as a person with diabetes, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
52-year-old Stevel Smith was a housekeeper at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts and says the company wrongfully terminated his employment after he filed a complaint because he was denied access to restrooms and to his medication. Smith also alleges that he endured discriminative practices because of his ethnicity; Smith is a Black Jamaican man.
In a suit filed in Orlando federal court on January 11, Smith accuses his management team at the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to court documents, Smith now works in a part-time capacity as a rideshare driver. The paperwork states that Smith “cries every time he passes Disney” because of the events that allegedly transpired.
According to the suit, Smith claims that one of his managers told him he was not “presentable,” and thus asked him to hide in a closet at the Resort when the hotel’s general manager was on-site. Court documents cite several instances that allegedly took place, during which the Cast Member sought assistance or made requests for accommodations related to managing his diabetes while at work, but was denied. Documents cite requests Smith allegedly made, such as the ability to keep his medication close to him and the ability to use restrooms not designated for Cast Members’ use.
The lawsuit also cites multiple alleged examples of Smith seeking assistance for his diabetes at work that Disney allegedly denied, including keeping his medication close and being able to use restrooms other than those designated for employees. Documents further allege that Smith experienced incidences of urinating on himself because management would allegedly deny his requests to take his medicine or use a Resort restroom when the need arose. A common symptom of diabetes is frequent urination.
In the court documents, Smith also alleges that he was fired under false pretenses in March 2020 as a form of retaliation because he complained about the issues he allegedly faced for more than two years. He was first hired by Disney World in 2013.
Smith claims that because of the incidences he endured while working as a housekeeper at Disney, he has suffered mental and emotional distress. Court documents show that Smith is demanding a jury trial and also seeking damages, though documents don’t specify the amount of those damages.
A spokesman for Disney, Eric Scott, made no response to questions about Stevel Smith’s employment and about his pending lawsuit against the company.
“We will respond to the allegations in court,” Scott was quoted in a statement.
In an email to The Orlando Sentinel, Smith’s attorney, Brett Kaplan, stated the following:
“We fully intend to prove that Disney subjected Mr. Smith to an abusive environment because of his disabilities and that he was terminated for complaining of same,” Kaplan wrote. “We commend Mr. Smith-a kind, gentle, and hardworking person==for coming forward and discussing his experience. We look forward to presenting our client’s claims in court, telling his story, and ultimately, holding Disney accountable.”
According to court documents, Smith became the victim of Disney’s alleged discriminatory practices against him in January 2018, and that those types of practices allegedly played out until Smith’s termination on March 8, 2020. Smith says the alleged practices include a manager reprimanding him for complaining about co-Cast Members disrespect for his Jamaican heritage by making him clean the Resort’s stock room in their place.
Smith also alleges in another incident, his manager instructed him to hide in a linen closet while the general manager was on-site because his supervisor felt he didn’t “look presentable,” even though court records show that Smith’s uniform was neat, allegedly telling Smith, “If you don’t disappear, you’ll see what I’ll do,” according to the court documents.
Smith further alleges that he was told by managers that he couldn’t take his medication while at work, saying things to him like, “I don’t care about diabetes,” and “If you take your medication, you can go home.” Smith also alleges that during a shift in 2019, he felt faint, so he asked to leave work early, to which his manager allegedly replied, “You don’t look sick,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleges that Smith’s requests fall under the reasonable accommodations required by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by the late President George H. W. Bush.
According to the U. S. Department of Labor website, the ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services.” The law requires employers, whether private or publicly-traded, to ensure accommodations for employees with disabilities. A person with diabetes falls under the law’s definition of a “person with a disability.”
The ex-Disney housekeeper says he was never given a written termination or an explanation for the reasons behind the company’s decision to terminate his employment, other than saying he was “a liability,” according to the suit. Smith filed a charge of discrimination against Disney via the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about 9 months after his firing, and the commission granted him a right to sue notice in November 2021.