Disney among the employers adapting to changing appearance expectations

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Companies such as Disney have appearance policies to project a positive image, but the restrictions are prompting legal challenges from employees who don't conform to them because of their religions.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Carrie J.'s avatar

Ok, I think I get the general points being made, but I still need to take it here in order to advance the conversation. What about when the color of someone's skin differs from the organization's sensibilities? To me, the issues around religion are the same idea. No one can discriminate based on either. If someone is qualified and able to do the job, they get equal consideration.

We have anti-discrimination laws because there are people who can't be trusted to make decisions that aren't based on dislike for religions, races, genders, ages, etc. And I still think those are miles away from merely choosing to wear jeans and t-shirts.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I don't think I have a good answer for that. Legally, you're right. Religion falls in with race and such in terms of protection. I'm just saying I disagree. It feels like a choice to me - especially when we're specifically talking about a detail like a religious dress code...and, even more specifically, it's conflict with a workplace dress code. It's admittedly opinion.

But on the subject of race and to the point those guys were making above me, is it discrimination to turn away an African American for the part of Ariel or a caucasian for Princess Tiana? Because you're actively doing so due to their skin color.

And is doing so any less 'damaging' because the end result is the same - you didn't get a job because of your skin color? (and I don't mean that as a challenge as much as I do a philosphical sort of question)

Also, like the example in the last post, face it, if I don't like the black guy just because he's black, I'm sure I'll have a laundry list of reasons he was wrong for the job that had nothing to do with his race. Try as you might with laws, legistlation and good intentions, but it's not much different than the security theater at the airport - it makes us feel like we're doing the right thing. (and I mean that in a realistic way, not negative or hateful - just having open, honest discussion here)

Which leads me back to the Disney case with the Sikh gentleman again and the curious terms of his hiring. Why did they hire him if his look was an issue!? The big reason he won his case was that he was employed and being treated differently. If they had just not hired him, he likely wouldn't have had a case at all and almost certainly would have never won a discrimination case for not being hired.


The NBA said no to me because I complained about the costumes...

Jeff's avatar

I think comparing an acting role to that of a dude delivering mail is a total strawman argument.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar's avatar

It might be and, like I said, I'm talking philosophy and theory here.

The point is that there's times when you absolutely have cause for not hiring someone for who they are or how they look.

Considering Disney calls all their employees "cast members" - well, you're always on stage at Disney, playing a part and looking and acting a certain way.

Devil's advocate type stuff, for sure. But we're finding tons of grey area or judgement calls that fly right in the face of any laws established to protect people where we agree it's ok for that to be the case.


ApolloAndy's avatar

But it sounds to me like you're arguing that because it's difficult to draw the line well, it shouldn't be drawn at all.

I also think you're making it intentionally harder than it has to be. Obviously, a 5'7" who can't dribble well isn't qualified to be a pro-basketball player. And obviously in a 1000 employee company in Texas, if nobody is Latino, it's not because there aren't any well qualified Latinos. It's hard to say exactly where to draw the line, and of course the bigoted company is going to try to get as close to the line as possible, but there is a line to be drawn and sometimes it's obvious when it's been crossed.

Last edited by ApolloAndy,

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
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Lord Gonchar's avatar

ApolloAndy said:

But it sounds to me like you're arguing that because it's difficult to draw the line well, it shouldn't be drawn at all.

Yeah, I am getting pretty close to saying that. It's difficult to draw the line well and even with it drawn it's easily ignored if you really want to due to all the grey area.

It's hard to say exactly where to draw the line, and of course the bigoted company is going to try to get as close to the line as possible, but there is a line to be drawn and sometimes it's obvious when it's been crossed.

Yep, the weirdness, to me, is that the idea of a line is to define right and wrong. However, at the same time, we all seem to agree that there's grey area and sometimes you just have to know it when you see it - those two idea seem a bit in conflict. I suppose you can have rules and judgement calls at the same time, but if the judgement calls still have to be made, then the line isn't doing a very good job...unfortunately, I don't think drawing lines ever really fixes this.

A little less butthurt and a lot more common sense do though. If you can't dress like an employer requires - don't apply there. You're not a fit. That's why I avoided wasting the time of an NBA teams.

I guess efficiency wins for me. It's just easier to not play the game. All we've done is swap one set of issues (some people weren't getting hired for the wrong reasons) to a whole different, more complex set of issues. Inconvenience the many to help the few.

Obviously, a 5'7" who can't dribble well isn't qualified to be a pro-basketball player. And obviously in a 1000 employee company in Texas, if nobody is Latino, it's not because there aren't any well qualified Latinos.

It's just as obvious to me that if you don't or can't look how a company requires that you aren't qualified to hold that position. What if a basketball player couldn't wear the uniform for religious reasons? (do a google search and you'll find stories all over the map)

That's why this conversation can go on forever - there is no right answer. It's just a constant shifting of the line and judgement calls based on the grey area created wherever the line happens to be at any time.


Jeff's avatar

The idea that you shouldn't ever draw lines because it's complicated is exactly the reason we have politicians unwilling to compromise or find a common sense middle ground in any issue. Some things are hard, some things are complicated.

Incidentally, I don't think this is hard or complicated. There's no reason to hide a guy from the public because he wears a turban for religious reasons. Sometimes, you just know when something is right or not.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

slithernoggin's avatar

Yes, the conversation here has gone off in interesting directions (as noted elsewhere, one of the reasons I so enjoy Coasterbuzz).

This guy should never have been restricted to corporate only routes.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Carrie J.'s avatar

I really don't think it's as nebulous as you're making it out to be, Gonch. (Though I do want to say that I understand what you're saying from the philosophical perspective.) The thing is, though, that line we're talking about is drawn in a place that is pretty clear. I think it's based on ability and function. We keep suggesting that the NBA player that requires to wear religious garments suggests discrimination against that religion. And it really isn't. That player doesn't have the ability to perform on the team due the garment restrictions. The dress code is functional for those roles (and sometimes in acting roles) and in those cases the dress codes supersede the person's protected status.

But when all other things are equal (ability to perform, qualifications, etc) then those laws (aka the line) exists to prevent people from being singled out for any other reason. That's pretty simple and for the most part, it works just fine.

Lord Gonchar said:

A little less butthurt and a lot more common sense do though. If you can't dress like an employer requires - don't apply there. You're not a fit. That's why I avoided wasting the time of an NBA teams.

See, the reason this makes me pause, at least when you choose to extend it to all scenarios including those protected from discrimination, is because I think back 50 or 60 years when customers with a specific skin color were allowed to be prohibited from eating at certain establishments, simply because the business owner had the right at the time to refuse service to anyone. What if folks then said the same thing, "Why would you want to give your money to a place where you're not wanted? Just go eat somewhere else then."

That was completely unacceptable and we had to create laws to stop it. This is the same thing only dealing with employment. Here the baseline is ability and qualifications to perform the job (including functional attire, when applicable) and with customers it's the ability to pay for the service. Those are still the great equalizers and I contend they work.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Great arguments.

The key difference to me is the motivation, I suppose.

If I don't hire you because I don't like your religion, that's one thing.

If I don't hire you because your religion unfortunately requires noncompliance with our established work environment, that's a totally different beast.

Like you guys have said, you'll know the difference when you see it.

I see dress code as a simple basic requirement like showing up on time. The rule is "no headwear or beards", not "no Sikhs" - that's important.

Essentially, what you guys are saying is that we've legislated away the corporate dress code/culture...for certain people....for certain reasons...but not for everyone.

That's all kinds of ****ered up. A business should be allowed to run however it likes within the law. The law should protect people from hate and discrimination. I just don't see a conflict of established business dress with an individual's esablished religous dress as motivated by the reasons the laws were created to protect from.

But the law isn't making that distinction. And I know that because if I went in looking exactly like this guy, I wouldn't get the job either. The difference is I have no legal grounds to challenge it.


slithernoggin's avatar

But he did get the job looking exactly like him


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Lord Gonchar's avatar

That's not the point.

For the sake of the more literal minded among us change that line to either of the following:

"And I know that because if I went in looking exactly like this guy, I would've gotten the modified route too."

or

"And I know that because if I went in looking exactly like someone whose religious dress doesn't meet dress codes, I wouldn't get the job either."

The point is that the law isn't making the distinction between hateful discrimination and corporate policy. It's making the distinction between reasons for being allowed to neglect corporate policy regardless of motivation for that policy. That's an important distinction.


ApolloAndy's avatar

And I think that's why you need legislators AND judges. You legislate so that it's very hard to avoid raising some kind of flag (because I don't think you can legislate the distinction you're making) and then you let the judge interpret.

I mean, what you're proposing is asking a group of lawmakers to write a document which can analyze someone's intentions.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Carrie J.'s avatar

I would agree that if your specific style preference just happened to be in perfect alignment with a religious affiliation, but is not originating from it, you are correct that you wouldn't be protected by the law. Bummer. But it's also likely that now that the precedent has been set by someone who was donning that style in conjunction with a religion, you could likely get hired, too. Hooray.

The point is that it makes no sense to me to not protect populations from hate just because it's not perfectly fair to those who aren't hated. If you really think about that in the bigger sense and factor in all of the history we have about what happens when left to our own collective devices regarding selection bias, it's hard for me to understand thinking anything other than that these laws are not only beneficial to society, but necessary.

And I agree with Andy. That's what the judicial branch does. It interprets the law. I don't think there was ever an intention to create a law so perfect that there would never be a need for interpretation. That's just not realistic.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Carrie J.'s avatar

Sorry for the double post... I just want to add that I LOVE the way we can test the boundaries of sensitive topics like this for the sake of intellectual stimulation and growth! I've missed this. Gonch really is taking this topic to the next level which is what would be required if we as a society ever want to continue our evolution to equal rights. Pretty cool.

[/heavy retrospective and acknowledgement] :)


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Lord Gonchar's avatar

High Five!

Carrie J. said:

I would agree that if your specific style preference just happened to be in perfect alignment with a religious affiliation, but is not originating from it, you are correct that you wouldn't be protected by the law. Bummer. But it's also likely that now that the precedent has been set by someone who was donning that style in conjunction with a religion, you could likely get hired, too. Hooray.

But that's just the thing - at that point we've legislated dress code, not discrimination.

I disagree with that.

And I agree with Andy. That's what the judicial branch does. It interprets the law. I don't think there was ever an intention to create a law so perfect that there would never be a need for interpretation. That's just not realistic.

Perhaps I'm wording it incorrectly (or, more likely, got off track somewhere), but I don't have a problem with judicial interpretation. I feel like the way the law has been set up and largely interpreted is that potential religious discrimination can be used as a catchall for whatever perceived wrong has occurred.

And when I type that, I realize I'm essentially making the old "playing the race card" argument in a different way. But I still stand by it.

The point is that it makes no sense to me to not protect populations from hate just because it's not perfectly fair to those who aren't hated. If you really think about that in the bigger sense and factor in all of the history we have about what happens when left to our own collective devices regarding selection bias, it's hard for me to understand thinking anything other than that these laws are not only beneficial to society, but necessary.

That's a fair enough point. But I still feel like we're not necessarily protecting from hate or discrimination. We're using the premise of protecting from hate to make seemingly related, but totally different decisions.

I got nothing else. In the specific Disney case my logic machine works it out like this:

1. The Sikh gentleman gets a standard route if he meets the dress code.
2. A non-sikh person looking identical gets the modified route (if hired at all).

If both are true (and I believe them to be) then religion is not a common factor. If religion is not a common factor it cannot be religious discrimination.


Jeff's avatar

I think you're trying too hard to split the religion from the clothing it mandates.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Yes, kinda, but from the other side. I'm trying to separate religious discrimination from corporate policy/dress code.

You could argue that the corporate policy can be disciminatory except that it's not if it applies to all equally - not just those of a certain religion.


Jeff's avatar

You're making the same argument that white, middle class, straight Christians have been making lately. I don't buy it.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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