The Walt Disney Co. has been hit with a lawsuit filed by a longtime executive who claimed he faced repeated discrimination based on his sexual orientation. The complaint comes as Disney is preparing for its celebration of Pride month, with themed content across its media platforms, including the kid-oriented Disney+ streaming service, Breitbart reports.
In a story first reported by Deadline, attorneys for Joel Hopkins filed a ten-page complaint Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. In the lawsuit, Hopkins claims he was denied promotion after his superiors learned about his sexual orientation. He alleges he was also put on a “dead-end career track” and that his compensation “is less than other individuals who are also department heads.”
Hopkins currently works as Vice President of Production Finance at Disney’s ABC Signature studios, which is the production division of ABC. He is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, punitive damages and various lawsuit costs.
“After his sexual orientation became known to his superiors and after being discriminated against and put on a dead-end career track and repeatedly denied promotions with no remedy or relief from HR, Plaintiff is informed and believes that yet again, in or around April 2021, several promotions occurred, but Plaintiff once again was not promoted,” the complaint said, according to Deadline, which obtained a copy of the filing.
“Plaintiff is informed and believes that these promotions occurred despite representations that Disney was hurting financially and not promoting.”
Deadline reported Hopkins filed a complaint of discrimination with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing in April of this year. The complaint was closed April 30 as Hopkins and his lawyers received a Right To Sue notice from the state agency.
Hopkins first joined Disney in 1994 as Director of Production Finance, he later received a promotion in 2000 to VP Production Finance for Touchstone TV. Around the same time, according to the filing his “sexual orientation as a gay man became known to several individuals, including Plaintiff’s direct supervisor, Jim Hedges, the CFO of ABC” and claims his career suffered in the 21 years since.
The lawsuit comes as Disney rolls out LGBTQ-themed apparel and other consumer merchandise throughout its U.S. parks and online stores, Breitbart reported.
“We believe in the power of inclusive storytelling that brings us together and inspires us to live authentically, and Disney+ is committed to amplifying LGBTQ+ and BIPOC voices,” Disney said in a statement.
We believe in the power of inclusive storytelling that brings us together and inspires us to live authentically, and Disney+ is committed to amplifying LGBTQ+ and BIPOC voices. We are proud to be a home for diverse creators, talent, and content. (1/3) #DisneyPlusPride 🌈 pic.twitter.com/asnr0JVbnb
— Disney+ (@disneyplus) June 1, 2021
“As a leader in LGBTQ+ content and workplace equality, The Walt Disney Company is committed to creating inclusive workplaces and supportive and welcoming environments in local communities,” the company has stated.