A Black longtime former Disneyland employee who alleges he was subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation and then wrongfully fired earlier this year after being falsely accused of bringing a gun to work will have his case heard by an Orange County jury, a judge ruled.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu on Friday granted a motion by attorneys for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc. and four other Disney entities transferring Douglas Keith Harris’ lawsuit to Orange County. She heard arguments Nov. 13, then took the case under submission before ruling Friday.
Disney lawyers stated in their court papers that the case was clearly one that should be litigated in Orange County because Disneyland is located in the city of Anaheim.
“(Harris) does not, because he cannot, dispute that he worked in Orange County, that the alleged illegal practice occurred in Orange County, that he would have continued working in Orange County but for the alleged illegal practice, or that the documents relevant to the alleged illegal practice were administered in Orange County and are maintained there,” the Disney lawyers argued in their court papers.
The Disney lawyers also allege that on Jan. 15, while at work and in the presence of several co-workers, Harris threatened to shoot a co-worker.
Harris’ lawyers maintained in their court papers that three of the five Disney entities sued are located in Burbank and that the case should stay in Los Angeles County.
In his suit filed June 16, Harris alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on race, veteran status, age and disability, as well as wrongful termination and defamation. Maintaining he was treated like a criminal and suffered extreme emotional distress, he is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Harris’ lawyer, Carney R. Shegerian, alleges his client “was a loyal and dedicated employee for 32 years until he lost his career over one unfounded accusation.”
“Disney’s actions exhibit a work environment that condones the very same stereotyping and bias that ruins the lives of many Americans and there is no excuse for such misconduct,” the attorney alleged.
Harris, now 63, was hired in October 1987 as a Disneyland ride operator and was promoted about seven times, eventually becoming a dispatcher in the maintenance base, the suit says. He typed for up to 10 hours a day and dispatched maintenance people if any attractions were down, according to his court papers.
He alleges that two of his supervisors inappropriately mocked him for being deaf in one ear, despite knowing that he suffered a hearing loss while serving in the military, and often told him, “You should retire.” He also claims that his supervisors abused their power over him by changing his schedule to the graveyard shift upon his return from a surgery.
In January, Harris was accused of bringing a firearm into work and brandishing it at another employee, but police searched his car and belongings and did not find any weapons, according to his court papers.
Ignoring Harris’ pleas that he did not bring a gun to work and does not have one, Disney suspended him, his suit alleges.
On Feb. 7, Harrisi says a supervisor met him outside of the main gate and told him he was being fired for being “unprofessional in the workplace.” Harris says he was stripped of his retirement plan and was told that he could no longer use his pass to get into the theme park.