Former Housekeeper Sues Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Alleging the Company Unjustly Fired Him

The Orlando Sentinel reports, A former housekeeper with diabetes has sued Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, alleging the company unjustly fired him after he complained about being denied access to bathrooms and medication and enduring discrimination because he is a Black Jamaican.

What’s Happening:

  • Stevel Smith, 52, alleges his managers at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts violated the Americans with Disabilities Act with the way he was treated, according to a lawsuit filed in Orlando federal court on January 11th.
  • The litigation cites multiple alleged examples of Smith seeking assistance for his diabetes at work that Disney denied, including keeping his medication close and being able to use restrooms other than those designated for employees.
  • Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination and retaliation against people with disabilities, and it requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for these workers. Diabetes falls under its requirements for protected conditions.
  • Smith also asserts his managers fired him under false pretenses in March 2020 in retaliation for complaining about those issues for over two years. Smith started working at the hotels in September 2017 but had worked at Disney World since 2013, according to the lawsuit. In records, Smith said he experienced mental and emotional distress because of his experiences. He is demanding a jury trial to seek an unspecified amount in damages.
  • Smith’s allegations towards Disney include:
    • A manager told him to hide in a linen closet from the property’s general manager because Smith did not “look presentable,” though his uniform was neat, records show. “If you don’t disappear, you’ll see what I’ll do,” the lawsuit claims the manager said.
    • Smith said his managers told him he could not take his medication at work and said things like, “I don’t care about diabetes” and “If you take your medication, you can go home,” court documents showed.
    • In January 2018, Smith had to rush to the nearest restroom while working in the hotel lobby. A manager saw him and reprimanded him for not using the employee bathroom across the resort, according to the lawsuit.
    • During an October 2019 shift, Smith asked to go home early because he felt faint. The manager refused, reportedly saying, “You don’t look sick,” the lawsuit claimed.
    • Also in October 2019, Smith asserts another manager told him he had to keep his medication in the employee locker room before moving it to a locker out of Smith’s reach, according to court records.
    • Smith said he hurt his back after another manager began assigning him extra work in November 2019, according to the lawsuit.
  • Smith met with management at least four times about the incidents and involved his union representative but claimed conditions did not improve, court records show.
  • Smith said he was not given a written termination or an explanation for his firing beyond that he was a “liability,” according to the lawsuit. He claims he was never given the opportunity to return to work, even though another employee suspended on the same day, for the same reason, got their job back.
  • Smith filed a discrimination charge against Walt Disney World through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December 2020. The commission issued him a right to sue notice in November.