Musician Sukhbir Channa has filed a $1 million class-action lawsuit against Walt Disney World, claiming the park denied him employment because his Sikh religion requires him to wear a beard and a dastaar, or turban.
Channa says he was hired in 2005 for a seasonal position playing the trumpet in a toy soldier act in the Disney Christmas show.
He was directed to wear a red turban to match the crimson berets of the other performers, Channa says, but was later told to shave his beard. Channa claims he was dismissed after three months, while all his co-workers who wanted to be rehired got jobs. Disney’s hiring manager allegedly told Channa he had a “look problem” and “did not fit the Disney image.”
When Channa complained to HR, he was told he was never hired. The company had no record of his application.
The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is backing Channa, noted Disney had no qualms about featuring turban-wearing characters in the movie “Aladdin.” It is “hypocritical for Disney to make millions of dollars promoting cartoon characters that wear turbans and simultaneously reject the right of an employee to wear a turban in accordance with his faith,” a spokeswoman said.
Channa’s attorney, Matt Serelson, who is Jewish, noted that he would be offended if Disney barred employees from wearing yarmulkes.
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