The Walt Disney Co. has been hit with a lawsuit from one of its own executives who alleges the company discriminated against him on the basis of sexual orientation. The complaint comes as Disney is rolling out Pride Month-themed content across its media platforms, including the kid-oriented Disney+ streaming service.
In a ten-page complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Joel 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 is currently a vice president of production finance at Disney’s ABC Signature Studios, which is the production division of ABC. He is seeking unspecified compensatory damages.
“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. His complaint was closed April 30 and he was given the go-ahead to sue within a year’s time.
Hopkins joined Disney in 1994. Six years later, he was promoted to vice president of 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.”
The lawsuit comes as Disney rolls out LGBTQ-themed content across its corporate properties. The Disney+ streaming service announced its own Pride celebration section where viewers can watch movies, documentaries, and short that focus on LGBTQ+ stories.
“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,” the company 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
Disney is also rolling out LGBTQ-themed apparel and other consumer merchandise throughout its U.S. parks and online stores.
“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.