Disney Fired Whistleblower, Manager Says
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Disney fired a manager for reporting the sexual harassment of a male employee, the man claims in court.
Robert Klein sued Walt Disney Co. for retaliation and wrongful firing, in Federal Court.
As a manager of collections and preservation, Klein says, Disney trusted him so far as to let him represent the company on TV chat shows, including "The View."
But it fired him in September 2011, for reporting that a female employee had sent "lewd" and "pornographic" to another Disney employee, Klein says in his complaint.
In doing so, he claims, Disney failed to "adhere to its own alleged anti-retaliation policy."
"This is a case about Walt Disney Company's attempt to cover up sexual harassment at the company by willfully retaliating against and firing the very person who reported the harassment in the first place, a person of impeccable credentials and former archivist for Disney who appeared on television for the company several times and wrote multiple books about Disney's history," according to the complaint. "Yet, according to Disney, the man who wrote their history is a liar who Disney has now blackballed in the entertainment industry."
Disney is the only defendant in the 22-page complaint, which names names.
Klein says he reported that Disney employee Andrea Recendez-Carbon sexually harassed Kiara Gellar, who complained to him about it.
Klein says in the complaint that Carbon had a "history of sexual harassment" and had been "involved in a prior scandal," which is not elucidated.
Gellar told him that Carbon "wanted Gellar to stay with her in her hotel room during the Walt Disney Archives' stay in Anaheim," for a Disney Archives exhibit, according to the complaint. It adds: "Gellar told Klein that Carbon was interested in developing a relationship with him, and that Carbon was aggressive and confrontational. Gellar expressed that he was alarmed."
Klein says he contacted Disney human resources several times before and after the convention.
Klein says he spoke to Gellar and Carbon, but claims he "was not provided any details of the alleged harassment, nor was he ever shown the lewd, inappropriate and pornographic text messages being sent by Carbon to Gellar."
After Disney investigated, Klein says, he was "blindsided with termination" on Sep. 6, 2011.
Klein says he was fired under the pretext that he had "'lied'" during Disney's investigation, and had failed to disclose that Carbon and Gellar had previously been in a relationship before Gellar was hired to work at Disney's photo archive.
"Klein did not know details about Gellar's personal life. Moreover (although it is not true that Klein knew about any prior relationship between Gellar and Carbon), even if Klein had known about a prior relationship between Gellar and Carbon, such would have been irrelevant to Gellar's hiring, particularly given that many Disney employees are either married, have ongoing relationships and had prior relationships before hiring. Simply put, having a relationship before or even after hiring at Disney was not against company policy," according to the complaint.
Klein claims that Disney encouraged other employees to distance themselves from him, and that his former coworkers de-friended him on Facebook and refused to provide him with references or job recommendations.
He claims that Disney put him on a blacklist, ruining his career.
"Disney's retaliatory actions have blackballed Klein in the archiving community, which is a tight-knit community, and have destroyed his otherwise impeccable career and reputation," the complaint states.
Klein seeks lost wages and punitive damages.
He is represented by Jason Archinaco with Archinaco/Bracken of Pittsburgh.
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.