Three Walt Disney World workers who were fired because they refused to wear face masks or get the COVID-19 vaccine due to religious reasons slapped the Florida theme park with a lawsuit.
Barbara Andreas, Stephen Cribb and Adam Pajer said in the lawsuit filed in Osceola County on June 29 that the Mouse House discriminated against them by not accommodating their requests to be exempt from the company’s COVID mandates, which required vaccines and facial coverings.
Andreas and Cribb were let go in March, while Pajer was fired last month, the lawsuit said, noting that the trio are all devout Christians who worked for Disney from between seven to 20 years.
Disney World suspended its vaccine mandate for workers in November 2021 to comply with legislation by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow lawmakers that limited the power of bosses to force employees to be vaccinated. The theme park lifted mask mandates for vaccinated workers in April.
However, since DeSantis’ ban on vaccine mandates, Disney World came up with “augmented protocols” that forced nonvaccinated employees into “harsh isolation and restrictions” that caused “serious breathing” problems and made it “nearly impossible to find a compliant manner and location in which to eat or drink while on shift,” according to the lawsuit.
“For cast members like Plaintiffs who have strongly-held religious beliefs, Disney has cast itself as the villain,” court papers said.
The suit said that Andreas, who had worked for Disney for 17 years, had sought a religious exemption, claiming that wearing a facial covering was an “affront” to her Christian beliefs.
Disney World then updated its health and safety rules.
“No longer was the cloth mask sufficient, now it was an N95 [mask] with the word ‘warning’ written across it,” Andreas told The Daily Mail.
The lawsuit claimed that the Orlando-based theme park “could and should have chosen to accommodate these religious beliefs in practice,” and that the protocols made it clear the company “irrationally” feared the workers “as perpetually exposed or infectious with disease and a perpetual danger to other cast and guests.”
The three former employees each reported the company to the Florida Attorney General’s Office for violating the state law against vaccine mandates before their terminations. They are suing over violation of Florida’s whistleblower protections, claiming that their firings were retaliation.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for lost wages, employee benefits and attorney’s fees and are requesting a jury trial, the suit said.
Disney did not respond to requests for comment.