By Greg Fox
ORLANDO (WESH) — Cheron Hayes and Seth Schmidt are former Disney World employees. They spoke to WESH 2’s Greg Fox, along with their attorney, who now has seven plaintiffs suing the company for “discrimination” under the Florida Civil Rights Act.
They also claim Disney’s “augmented safety protocols” generated inconsistent enforcement of its mask and social distancing policy and violation of state law prohibiting vaccine mandates for which non-compliance could result in termination.
They claim Disney terminated them for not getting COVID-19 shots despite their claims of religious exemptions.
On July 30, 2021, the head of human resources for the Walt Disney Company sent out a letter informing all employees in the U.S. that it would require COVID-19 vaccines and giving them 60 days to comply.
The company’s chief human resources officer, Paul Richardson, stressed, “We believe it is important to put the safety of our employees and cast members at the forefront.”
Hayes, a senior financial analyst at Disney for nearly 15 years, says she was fired on Nov. 8, 2021.
“I thought I’d found the company I would retire from, and, so for them to hit me with this, just for a shot, and for them to literally say, ‘No shot, no job,’ was, you know, it was very humiliating,” Hayes said.
Just 10 days later, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a ban on vaccine mandates and the next day, Disney emailed workers, saying, “We must pause the enforcement of our policy for Florida-based cast members and employees.”
Despite that, Schmidt, an 11-year Disney Hollywood Studios employee, was fired when he said his religious exemption was denied.
“My manager said it’s not because of the job. ‘You do a great job. But because of all our policies, we have to let you go.’ It just felt disheartening,” Schmidt said.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Rachel Rodriguez, says the law is clearly on their side.
“It can’t be overstated that the problems here have to do with discrimination under long-standing law,” she said. “They violated the privacy rights of all of their cast members in Florida.”
A Disney World spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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