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Did Disney discriminate against an employee based on national origin?

While it may seem obvious to most that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee on the basis of their gender, race or disability, it's important to understand that there are other grounds that while not entirely obvious are still expressly protected by state and federal law.

Take for example discrimination based on a person's national origin, something defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as treating an employee or prospective employee in an unfavorable manner  "because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not)."

Interestingly enough, Walt Disney World here in Florida has been hit with six lawsuits alleging discrimination from 2011 to 2014, with at least two alleging that this discrimination was based on national origin. In fact, a verdict was reached in one of these cases just last week.

What allegations were made in the case?

A Haitian woman who worked as a security guard at Disney World claimed the theme park acted in a discriminatory manner when it passed her over for a promotion for the position of emergency coordinator back in 2010.

Specifically, she claimed the job was given to a white male with less education and less experience, and that her resume was never given the consideration it merited.

What did the jury find?

While the jury found that Disney World was indeed guilty of discriminating against the woman on the basis of her national origin, it declined to award damages.

Why did it decline to award damages?

The jury determined that the evidence demonstrated that even in the absence of the discrimination, the security guard likely would probably not have gotten the promotion.

Is this the end of the matter?

Not necessarily. The attorney representing the security guard indicated that he will request that the presiding judge consider granting additional relief, including an order that information about the lawsuit be posted in a location accessed regularly by Disney World employees.

We will take a closer look at what constitutes workplace discrimination based on national origin in our next post. 

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