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Disneyland Pays $1.7 Million to End Labor Complaints

March 16, 2001|E. SCOTT RECKARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disneyland is paying more than $1.7 million to about 10,000 former and current workers to settle complaints that some employees had to stay to change out of costumes while others were allowed to go home early in their uniforms.

The Anaheim park mailed checks for the total amount this week to settle charges that some workers spent more time in locker rooms and costume windows than others who were paid the same, Disneyland management sources and state labor regulators said Thursday.

Additional payments will be made later this year until all hourly workers at the park are phased into a program allowing uniforms to be worn home, said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the state's Department of Industrial Relations. He said he couldn't estimate what the total cost to Disneyland might be.

"For those who don't [wear costumes home], it can add up to an extra fifteen minutes" a day in pay, Fryer said.

The settlement payments mailed out this week range from as little as $1 to more than $1,000 per worker, Disneyland spokeswoman Chela Castano-Lenahan said.

In settling, Disneyland didn't admit liability. It said it wanted "to settle and resolve amicably any and all such claims."

Workers have long been able to leave their work areas 15 minutes early to go to locker rooms and costume stations to turn in their costumes and uniforms. In its $100-million make-over of the Tomorrowland section in 1998, Disneyland provided several new costumes for each employee there and allowed them to take the uniforms home, effectively permitting them to leave 15 minutes early. Fantasyland workers also were quickly phased into the program.

But other parts of Disneyland don't have enough costumes to allow employees to wear them home. So before leaving, members of the Pirates of the Caribbean crew must shed their buccaneer regalia, canoe paddlers their Davy Crockett fringed buckskin and ice-cream parlor workers their Gibson Girl get-ups.

Employees complained last year to the state labor agency. They found a sympathetic ear because state law requires them to be compensated for time spent putting on and taking off uniforms and for similar tasks that occur on premises before and after work.

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ruled that the park's policy of letting one group go home early while requiring the other group to stay amounted to unequal treatment of workers, Fryer said.

In the end, Disneyland agreed to pay the workers who change before going home 15 minutes extra for each shift they worked from Dec. 1, 1999, through last Nov. 1.

The settlement, reached in November, said the first payment had to be made by Thursday. It requires Disneyland to provide extra costumes to remaining workers by the end of this year.

All workers at Disney's California Adventure, Walt Disney Co.'s separate new Anaheim theme park, already wear their costumes home.

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