Pop Culture
Jun 20, 2008, 01:05PM

Disney Only Likes Look Of Strange Foreigners In Cartoon Form

A Sikh student working as a trumpet player at Disney World could not completely conform to the Disney "look," since his religion requires him to keep his hair long. But Disney apparently doens't like rivals to their own piety, so they refused to rehire him. Now he's suing Mickey et al for discrimination.

Sukhbir Channa, a 24-year-old who graduated from USF in spring 2007 with a degree in trumpet performance, is a practicing member of the Sikh religion who kept his long hair under a turban - or dastaar - and grew a beard in accordance with his beliefs. He claims that Disney fired him because he did not conform to the "Disney look," according to court documents. He is asking for $1 million in damages and a trial by jury.

The Disney look requires employees to keep their mustaches "neatly trimmed" and prohibits "beards, goatees and any extreme mustache style," according to Disney's Web site. All headwear must be issued by the costuming department.

In October 2005, Channa was hired as a seasonal trumpet player for parade and atmospheric positions. During the parades, he wore a toy soldier hat that covered his head. For the atmospheric position, in which a musician interacts with the audience, Disney suggested that Channa wear a red turban instead of the usual red beret. Channa agreed, but was removed from the atmospheric position by his manager before his first scheduled appearance because he lacked the Disney look. He was terminated in early 2006, when his seasonal contract ended.

In October 2006, Channa reapplied for the same position and was told he was very qualified but still lacked the Disney look. He was not rehired.

  • Disney is notorious for intimidating lawsuits, and of course is not alone among big companies in that regard. But a quick check on Disney's history would've revealed that to Channa, and he could've found a job elsewhere. The New York Yankees have a limited facial hair rule; if players don't like that they don't have to sign with the team. It's weird and ugly, but if Disney's policies are within the law, those are the breaks.

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