Safety, courtesy, show and efficiency; these are the four guiding principles (or keys) that Disney Parks and Resorts ingrains into its ‘cast members’ that not only highlight how to conduct themselves in their ‘roles,’ at the parks, but stress their order of importance. Therefore, safety is the primary concern of the company and its employees.
But what if a cast member were to run ‘afoul’ of the organization and its management and cite concerns regarding safety? And especially where management is effectively swapping the importance of safety for the sake of efficiency? Worse yet, what if that cast member claims retaliation for their whistle-blowing and says they were wrongfully terminated as a result?
This is the reported story of Victoria Ann Smith, who last week filed a lawsuit against Disney Parks and Resorts and Local Union 362 President Eric Clinton, stating that despite a near-exemplary record, she was fired not because of a terminable offense as claimed by management, but because she consistently called out the manager on safety concerns.
Smith’s role, as it pertains to the suit, was that of the ‘Gangster’ at The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. According to the suit, Disney claims her termination came as a result of leaving her microphone on in the cast member break room and using an expletive (namely ‘Oh s—-!’) which would theoretically be heard by guests inside the attraction. While Smith disputes the event even took place, she also argues that the offense is only terminable if spoken in front of guests (as per the union contract) and that by being separated from the guests by being inside the break room, the claim does not stand.
To her defense, Smith argues in her two and a half years as a cast member, she received no less than 16 ‘great service fanatic cards’ and only small number of points for tardiness as well as a case where her provided ‘extra service to a guest’ was ‘misconstrued as her leaving her station.’ Smith asserts that retaliation was the motivation behind the termination by her manager (named as ‘Steve S.’) who had a personal vendetta against her for continuously noting safety infractions (‘such as a broken door threatening Cast Member safety, a broken fan failing to clear smoke threatening guest and Cast member safety, and her refusal to abide by the manager’s violation of the red light/green light vehicle system to speed up the ride (designed for guide safety).’)
Bolstering her claim, Smith notes that while the manager in question immediately obtained (and reportedly influenced) accounts from other cast members, he did not speak to her directly about it for a week following, despite her working every day since. Smith even includes the statements from three other cast members regarding the alleged incident in her complaint and disputes each one accordingly.
Smith is seeking $250,000 for emotional distress and for lost future wages.