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.
(L-R) US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jahir Jimenez, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Duffy the Disney Bear and US Marine Corps First Sgt. Michael Diaz, head of the 2010 Central Florida Toys for Tots campaign, pose Nov. 15, 2010 in front of the “Cuddliest Christmas Tree” at Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 20-foot-high, 10-foot-wide Christmas tree made of 1,200 stuffed Duffy bears was created for the launch of Walt Disney World Resort’s annual Toys for Tots collection drive. For the next few weeks, Walt Disney World Resort cast members will play the role of Santa’s helpers by collecting new toys for the annual toy drive, which will be added to Monday’s donation of 1,200 stuffed Duffy bears from the “Cuddliest Christmas Tree.” The annual toy drive is one of many charitable activities under way at Walt Disney World Resort during the “Season of Sharing” that focuses on improving the lives of local children and their families during the holidays and beyond. (Photo by Gene Duncan/Disney)
Before an audience of their peers, family and friends, the next chapter in a true-life Cinderella story unfolded this morning at Magic Kingdom Park as two Walt Disney World Cast Members were chosen to step into the time-honored role of Walt Disney World Ambassador. During a special ceremony in front of Cinderella Castle prior to park open, Norman Vossschulte and Jennifer Mason were named as the 40th Walt Disney World Ambassador Team and will serve from Jan. 1, 2011 – Dec. 31, 2012.
“Our Walt Disney World Ambassadors represent our resort, their fellow cast members, and the heritage, tradition and values of Walt Disney. It is a role filled with great significance… and great responsibilities,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “Those chosen as Ambassadors are truly talented individuals who represent Disney Cast Members with purpose and grace, and bring the magic of Walt Disney World to the world at large.”
The 45-year tradition of the Disney Ambassador program is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those selected. Individuals named as Ambassadors accept a two-year-long assignment representing Walt Disney World Resort’s approximately 58,000 Cast Members and share the magic of Disney throughout the community and the world. Typical Ambassador responsibilities include making hospital visits and appearances with Disney characters, participating in community outreach events and recognizing Cast Members’ milestones and special achievements.
Every two years, thousands of Cast Members are invited to participate in the Ambassador recruitment process that starts with information sessions and ends with a ceremony announcing the new Ambassador team.
Following a two-month training, the 2011-2012 Ambassador team will start their year with a full schedule and can expect to participate in more than 3,500 events for various occasions.
Norman Vossschulte steps into the Ambassador role from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where he currently is a Jedi Master at the Jedi Training Academy. Born in Berlin, Germany, Vossschulte has lived all over the world, holds baccalaureate degrees in physical science and biology and trained as an actor in New York City. His Disney career began in 2008 when he became a safari driver at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Vossschulte went on to join the Guest Relations team at Epcot and eventually Entertainment.
Jennifer Mason currently oversees the Magic Kingdom Custodial team and ensures the place where dreams come true is kept clean. Born in Alabama, Mason grew up in Clearwater, Fla. and spent countless days at the Walt Disney World Resort with her family. After graduating from Florida State University, she became a member of the opening team of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in 1998. Throughout her Disney career, she has served as a leader for several Operations teams at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
The great honor of being selected as a Disney Ambassador began during the 10th anniversary of Disneyland, when Walt Disney himself was overwhelmed with requests for appearances and media interviews. As a result, he selected the very first Ambassador in 1964 and the tradition has continued ever since.
The annual event, organized by the Metropolitan Business Association, which serves as Orlando’s Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, celebrates members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and its allies.
“It was wonderful to see so many positive and supportive people in our community come out and join us for such a memorable celebration,” said Andrea Hays, president of the PRIDE Diversity Resource Group at Walt Disney World Resort. “Each year we try to step up our involvement in the Come Out with Pride celebration and show our support. This year about 85 Cast Members and VoluntEARS represented Walt Disney World Resort in the parade and at events throughout the day, demonstrating just how much we value diversity and inclusion.”
Walt Disney World Ambassadors Clay Shoemaker and Vanessa Rosas joined in the celebration, riding in a horse-drawn wagon that led the way for Disney Cast Members marching in the parade. Additionally, Disney VoluntEARS helped oversee the Disney-sponsored KidZone at Lake Eola Park, which entertained more than 2,500 children of all ages with fun activities, games, family-friendly dance music and crafts. VoluntEARS taught kids how to make towel animals and the Disney Quest Animation Academy team demonstrated how to draw classic Disney characters.
PRIDE is one of seven Diversity Resource Groups that give Cast Members the chance to join others who have a common interest in advancing diversity and inclusion at Walt Disney World Resort.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort
WESH Orlando is reporting that 18 cast members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World have reported feeling ill today with six being transported to the hospital for care. Fumes as a result of repaving the parking lots were determined to be the source of the problem which had only affected the reporting cast members as they had experienced prolonged exposure to the fumes while working at the parking lot.
The report notes that no guests have reported becoming ill as a result nor has park operations been affected at all according to Reedy Creek officials.