Happy Pride month to Disney! The celebration got started this year with a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit, filed by VP Production Finance at ABC Signature Joel Hopkins, on the very first day of Pride.
The case seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and various lawsuit costs. Hopkins says he has repeatedly been denied promotions—which he believes was due to his sexual orientation. Hopkins began his career at Disney in 1994, as Director of Production Finance for Buena Vista Television. Over the next six years he was promoted twice, once to Vice President of Production Finance for Touchstone Television and then again to his current position. However, after his final promotion, Hopkins’ sexuality as a gay man became known to Jim Hedges, the CFO of ABC and Hopkins’ direct supervisor. That’s when he says the promotions stalled and his career was placed on a road to nowhere.
In addition to the lack of promotion and of equal pay as compared his counterparts, Hopkins says news of his sexuality led to over-scrutiny and harassment at work, creating a hostile environment. He also claims he was excluded from executive meetings and his office space was repeatedly downsized, leading to a reduction in his authority.
“Plaintiff has direct and repeated complaints to HR about the discrimination he has endured while employed by Defendants and, concomitantly, the related failures to promote him and to pay him at the same level as other department heads,” says attorneys for Hopkins in the claim filed at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
“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,” continues the 10-page filing. “Plaintiff is informed and believes that these promotions occurred despite representations that Disney was hurting financially and not promoting.”
While the timing of the case could not be better, it did not come out of the blue. Hopkins filed a complaint of discrimination with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing earlier this year. Hopkins’ complaint was closed April 30 as he and his lawyers received a Right To Sue notice from the state agency.