Lawsuit claims Disney served as "state actor" in implementing COVID vaccine mandate
A lawsuit filed against The Walt Disney Company accused the media giant of acting as an arm of the Biden administration
in implementing Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandates.
The lawsuit from former ESPN
employees Beth Faber and Allison Williams alleged that Disney played the role of a "state actor" in terminating them for noncompliance with the company's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Faber, who worked in the network as a producer, was terminated in September 2021. Williams, who was fired in the same month as Faber, later joined Fox Sports
as a commentator.
The plaintiffs' lawsuit argued that Disney, in its role as a "state actor," is subject to the Constitution's "equal protection clause." Lawyers for Faber and Williams wrote: "The Constitution provides that the government – and state actors alike – cannot take life, liberty or property without due process and equal protection of the law."
The complaint further argued that the termination of both Faber and Williams, which coincided with President Joe Biden's announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private companies, was "more than just symbolic" as it was "part of a very orchestrated and choreographed partnership."
The California-based entertainment company owns 80 percent of ESPN
, with the remaining 20 percent owned by Hearst Communications.
Moreover, Faber and Williams' lawsuit referenced a White House meeting attended by then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek less than a week after Biden announced his vaccine mandate. Chapek mandating COVID-19 injections for Disney employees served as a "clear and obvious response" to the president's demand, it added. Originally taking over his predecessor Bob Iger, Chapek stepped down as CEO in November 2022 only to be replaced by Iger himself.
The complaint also mentioned that in the course of acting as an arm of the Biden administration, Disney – and by extension ESPN
– infringed on the religious rights of employees. It cited how the network rejected the application for religious exemption filed by both plaintiffs.
Other former employees sue Disney over vaccine mandates
The two former ESPN
employees are not the only ones who challenged Disney's vaccine mandate in court.
According to a report by NBC
affiliate channel WESH 2
, seven former employees sued Disney
for "discrimination" under the Florida Civil Rights Act. Two of the plaintiffs, Cheron Hayes and Seth Schmidt, claimed the company rejected their applications for religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate – leading to their termination. (Related: Cast members to sue Disney for its COVID-19 "vaccinate or terminate" mandate.
Hayes was fired in November 2021 after working as a senior financial analyst for almost 15 years. She lamented: "I thought I'd found the company I would retire from. So for them to hit me with this just for a shot and for them to literally say 'No shot, no job' … was very humiliating."
Schmitt also suffered the same fate even though he had worked or 11 years at the Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida's Disney World theme park. "My manager said it's not because of the job," he told WESH 2
. "'You do a great job. But because of our policies, we have to let you go.' It just felt disheartening."
Rachel Rodriguez, an attorney representing the seven plaintiffs, said the law is clearly on her clients' side.
"It can't be overstated that the problems here have to do with discrimination under long-standing law," she said, adding that Disney "violated the privacy rights" of employees by mandating them to get the COVID-19 vaccine
under threat of termination.
Watch Disney employee Nick Caturano discuss his and his colleagues' fight
against the company's COVID-19 vaccine mandate on "Lawfare with Tom Renz."
This video is from the BrighteonTV channel on Brighteon.com
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