Disney has settled a lawsuit brought by a former Disney World housekeeper with diabetes who claimed the company unjustly fired him after he complained about Disney refusing to accommodate his medical needs.
In court records, 53-year-old Stevel Smith said his managers at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts violated the Americans with Disabilities Act through actions such as denying him easy access to his medication at work and reprimanding him for using public restrooms instead of employee facilities.
Although the lawsuit against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts centers on disability discrimination, Smith also cited instances of racial discrimination, claiming his managers treated him differently because he is a Black Jamaican.
Smith was fired from Disney in March 2020, and he alleged it was in retaliation for complaining about unfair treatment. He was working part-time as a ride-share driver when he filed the lawsuit in Orlando federal court in January.
Disney denied Smith’s allegations of discrimination and unfair termination in court, records show. The company said Smith was fired for “not completing his room safety inspections” and “falsifying company records.”
The company also claimed Smith is “not a qualified individual with a disability as defined by” the Americans with Disabilities Act. Diabetes falls under federal requirements for protected conditions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawsuit was dismissed Oct. 7 after Smith and Disney reached an agreement during an August mediation, records show. Its terms are not public.
Brett Kaplan, Smith’s lawyer, declined an interview on the case. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
In the lawsuit, Smith said he urinated on himself at work several times because managers told him he could not take his medicine at work or use the hotel’s public restrooms. Frequent urination is a common diabetes symptom, and Smith said the resort’s employee restrooms were often far from his work location.
He alleged his managers told him things like, “I don’t care about diabetes” and “If you take your medication, you can go home,” according to the suit.
During an October 2019 shift, Smith said a manager told him he had to keep his medication in the employee locker room and moved it to a locker out of Smith’s reach, the lawsuit says.
Smith said he met with management several times about the incidents and asked Disney to investigate, but conditions did not improve and Disney did not look into his concerns, according to the suit.
In court filings, Disney said the company does not allow employees to carry personal items with them on work carts to prevent theft, but Smith was not denied access to his medicine or an accessible restroom at work.
Records show Disney acknowledged Smith complained to employee relations about having to keep his bag in his locker. The company said it set up a virtual meeting with Smith, one of his managers and labor representatives to discuss the issue.
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