While Disney Plus Celebrates Pride, Parent Is Beaten With Suit For Sexual Orientation Discrimination

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Even as Disney’s major streaming service celebrates Pride Month with a prominently positioned carousel of LGBTQ+ titles on its homepage, the company finds itself at the center of a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit brought by an executive.

The complaint (PDF), as mentioned before through Deadline, was filed today in a California higher court on behalf of television director Joel Hopkins, lawyers confirmed The edge. Hopkins had been with the company since 1994. The lawsuit alleges that around the time he was promoted to vice president of production finance for Touchstone Television in 2000, it was revealed that Hopkins identified as gay.

At this time, despite his tenure and previous promotions within the company, Hopkins experienced “an ongoing pattern of discrimination, including, but not limited to, being passed over for promotions and not being paid at a level commensurate with other department heads.” complaint state.

In addition to allegedly being subjected to what the lawsuit characterized as unwarranted scrutiny and harassment, he was also allegedly blamed for issues beyond his responsibility and repeatedly overlooked for better growth opportunities within the company. In some cases, these oversights were so serious that others with less or no relevant experience were promoted to these positions. He was also reportedly banned from management meetings and claims his role in the management of other employees was also diminished.

According to the lawsuit, Hopkins filed “immediate and repeated complaints to HR” about the discrimination he had experienced, but the HR department and his employers “didn’t provide relief at all.”

“After his sexual orientation has become known to his superiors and after he has been discriminated against, and after being put on a career dead end and repeatedly denied promotions without remedy or relief from HR, Plaintiff is informed and believes that again, in or around Various promotions took place in April 2021, but Plaintiff was again not promoted,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff is aware and believes that these promotions took place despite statements that Disney suffered financially and did not advertise.”

The complaint was filed under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation. The lawsuit is seeking damages for lost benefits and wages, as well as medical expenses and emotional distress, in addition to litigation costs and attorneys’ fees. It also demands “punitive damages in an amount appropriate to punish defendants and to deter others from similar conduct for all causes of action where such damages are recoverable.”

A Disney spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. Neither Riverside Television Services nor ABC Signature Studios, which are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, immediately returned requests for comment.

While The Walt Disney Company is being sued over allegations of corporate-level sexual orientation discrimination, Pride Month’s tentpole streaming service has made it a major focus in curating content on its homepage.

Disney Plus is the company’s crown jewel and arguably its most consumer-oriented product right now. The business of the company has essentially rearranged focus almost exclusively on making Disney Plus a success. As Pride kicks off this month, a prominent “Celebrate Pride Month” column on the service features titles such as: From, Howard, runaways, and more than half a dozen other Pride-friendly titles.