The Disney Corporation is the largest entertainment company in the world. Last year, they reported $55.6 billion in revenue. And a big part of the company’s revenue, of course, comes from theme parks. And these theme parks can only effectively deliver on the “Disney experience” by employing happy “imagineers” to work the rides, food stands, and shops, and clean, manage, and facilitate their hotels. So you would think that the company—the biggest entertainment company in the world—probably pays their workers well, right? You would expect that a company like this, whose real product is “happiness” (in a way) would do what they can to keep their workers happy too.
Well, apparently, that is not the case; at least, not at the Florida parks. The United States Department of Labor has just found Disney in violation of minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping rules. Apparently, the company did not compensate employees for their time spent doing their “pre-shift” duties, that the resorts have not kept adequate payroll records. These violations would have occurred between 2103 and 2017; while Disney does not admit any wrongdoing, they have still settled to pay 16,338 hotel and time-share employees a total of $3.8 million in back wages. This amounts to about $233 per worker. No large amount—and, essentially, a management discrepancy—but significant nonetheless.
The US Department of Labor argues that these employees were consistently not paid for 15 minutes of work before and after shifts (which count as work because of certain preparatory duties).
And Disney was also deducting uniform expenses that forced some worker’s hourly rates to fall below the federal minimum wage. Interestingly enough, though, this is not rare at all. According to Daniel White, the Jacksonville, Florida district director for the department’s Wage and Hour Division, “These violations are not uncommon and are found in other industries, as well. Employers cannot make deductions that take workers below the minimum wage, and must accurately track and pay for all the hours their employees work, including any time they work before or after their scheduled shifts.”
“This is a very large amount of money, but even more important because a large number of workers were involved,” said Seth Harris, who served as acting secretary of labor under President Barack Obama. “This case is another illustration of the fact that wage and hour enforcement is just as critical today as it has ever been.”