Disney's Pride Month Started With a Lawsuit From an Exec Alleging Discrimination Over His Sexual Orientation

Disney's Pride Month Started With a Lawsuit From an Exec Alleging Discrimination Over His Sexual Orientation
Photo:DAVID MCNEW / AFP (Getty Images)

It’s the beginning of Pride month, which means it’s time for LGBTQ+ people to celebrate our community and honor those who fought for our liberation—and also for multi-billion dollar companies to act like selling rainbow apparel and changing their Twitter profile photo is the same as actually supporting LGBTQ+ people! But on Tuesday, a long-time Disney executive decided to put a stain on the beloved corporate tradition of rainbow-washing when he filed a lawsuit claiming that the company was discriminating against him based on his sexual orientation.

The plaintiff, Joel Hopkins, has worked at Disney since 1994  when he joined the company as the Director of Production Finance for Buena Vista TV. When Hopkins was promoted in 2000, he was somehow outed as a gay man to several people within the company, including his then-supervisor, ABC CFO Jim Hedges. Although the lawsuit alleges long-term discrimination supported by a history of HR complaints, it seems that the issue finally came to a breaking point for Hopkins this April, when he filed a complaint of discrimination with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing department.

“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.” Hopkins alleges this occurred during a period when he was being told that Disney was “hurting financially and not promoting” despite promotions occurring elsewhere within the company.

“Plaintiff is also informed and believes that his compensation is less than other individuals who are also department heads and that his title is lower than other individuals who are also department heads, especially for someone of Plaintiff’s experience and tenure,” states the lawsuit.

While it’s unlikely that a lawsuit from a white and presumably wealthy gay man who has worked at Disney for over two and a half decades will create any meaningful change in how the company treats its LGBTQ+ employees, I can’t help but cheer at the sight of any crack in the facade of the House of Mouse.

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