Disabled Black Woman Sues Disney for Wrongful Firing
Pass through the castle to enter Lawsuit Land!
Photo by Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
The Disneyland Resort used to be the happiest workplace on earth for Francine Arthur. The African-American mother of two enjoyed a series of promotions after getting her start as a night shift custodian in 2008. Her work ethic earned praise from Ghirardelli, who wanted Arthur to help with its new Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop at Disney's California Adventure Park. She later earned a hostess position at the Napa Rose restaurant inside Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.
But that's where the magic ended.
In a lawsuit filed last October in Orange County Superior Court, Arthur claims she was wrongfully terminated two years ago following harassment from management and fellow workers that hounded her since April 2012. Having a mental disability that impaired her ability to quickly process information, Arthur requested a meeting to discuss work accommodations from the onset. All seemed well enough until her manager allegedly called her "slow" in front of other workers who soon joined in on the humiliating taunts.
Being a 48-year-old, Arthur felt the twentysomethings at Napa Rose ganged up on her. She complained to management when a white coworker freely dropped the N-bomb. "Watch your back" servers warned after hearing rumors of a plot being hatched by her manager and another hostess to get her fired.
Months of misery followed. According to the suit, she got blamed for a lost cellphone that a customer left behind and claimed a coworker stuffed a restaurant candle in her backpack only to accuse her of stealing it. She reported the frame up to Human Resources, but nothing happened. In the meantime, her manager wrote up poor job performance reviews.
The hurtful words turned to workplace injuries. In August 2012, a coworker told Arthur to help lift an overweight patron from her chair, a task that caused back pain severe enough to warrant 15-pound lifting restrictions from Disney's workers' compensation doctor. By then, Arthur wanted out of Napa Rose, but couldn't get reassigned. When she lifted chairs on the job a few months later, her back injury worsened. Faced with an impossible choice of no further accommodations or no hours, she carried on.
Arthur alleges enduring all sorts of insults and hostilities through the summer of 2013. Disney's workers' comp doctor granted her a year off the job under the Family and Medical Leave Act in early 2014, when she needed spinal epidural shots. But when Arthur returned to Napa Rose, the same problems at work plagued her.
The hostess area became wheelchair accessible, but she requested a walker instead. Restaurant management didn't like the idea of patrons greeted by a hostess with a walker, according to the suit, and groomed a young man for the position. The hellish three years came to an unceremonious end when Arthur got a termination notice in May 2015 with no reassignment offers.
The Weekly didn't receive a response from Disney's law firm about the suit.
Represented by Shegarian and Associates, Arthur seeks more than $25,000 in damages for lost income, emotional distress and physical pain. A jury trial is scheduled for Nov. 20, 2017 in the courtroom of OC Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.