William James Jr., an actor from Broadway’s “The Lion King,” has filed a lawsuit against Disney over firing him on his first day of paternity leave and is claiming sexual harassment by a Marvel actress-turned-director.
Disney fired James on the first day of his paternity leave in March 2020, allegedly out of “revenge,” while the production was on its North American tour. The termination was reportedly carried out “in the most callous way at the most unreasonable time” in an effort to send a message to other employees, according to the New York Post.
The actor has been with the musical for three years and he was an understudy for the part of Mufasa before he was given the boot, according to the Daily Mail.
In the suit, he is charging that the production violated the New York state and City Human Rights Laws. He’s also contending that actress and director Ameena Kaplan is guilty of sexually harassing him and other male performers. She is accused of bullying him and making “unwelcome advances.” The lawsuit is accusing Disney of turning a “collective blind eye” to the situation and that it fostered a “hostile work environment.”
Lion King musical actress who's also Marvel star pestered male co-stars for sex and warned one she'd limit his chances to understudy for Mufasa if he resisted her advances, lawsuit claims. https://t.co/aYOcpCSfgL pic.twitter.com/U2rSeYoiuz
— Eugene Mecke (@emeckejr) October 28, 2022
Aside from being a director on the “Lion King,” Kaplan has appeared in Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame.”
James is asserting that Kaplan asked him and other male employees to meet with her privately after work for drinks, ostensibly as a prelude to sex. He says that she suggested she could limit his role as an understudy for Mufasa if he said no.
James also claims that he was told he needed to “correct his behavior” and be more deferential toward Kaplan. He insists that Disney “condoned and supported” Kaplan despite her actions.
Actors Equity, which represents Broadway and national tour performers, investigated the incident and filed a grievance on his behalf. James then proceeded to file his lawsuit which purports that Actors Equity corroborated the sexual harassment allegation, but Disney “did not care.”
An actor fired from Broadway’s “The Lion King” on his first day of paternity leave has accused Disney in a new lawsuit of violating his human rights. William James Jr claims he was fired, in part, in retaliation for multiple complaints he made about the show’s production director
— Amelia (@Amelia73898709) October 29, 2022
James accused the company of “sweeping (his) complaints under the rug” after Disney found his complaints to be baseless.
“Disney & Lion King management allowed me to be SEXUALLY HARASSED, STALKED, THREATENED, DISRESPECTED, TAUNTED, TORMENTED, GAS-LIT, BULLIED & INTENTIONALLY PLACED IN UNSAFE SITUATIONS by a sociopathic, manipulative & dangerously director,” James railed in a 2021 tweet.
In return, Disney & Lion King management allowed me to be SEXUALLY HARASSED, STALKED, THREATENED, DISRESPECTED, TAUNTED, TORMENTED, GAS-LIT, BULLIED & INTENTIONALLY PLACED IN UNSAFE SITUATIONS by a sociopathic, manipulative & dangerously director.
— William James Jr. (@BillyDr3am) April 23, 2021
The suit goes on to argue that Disney also “did not train, supervise or instruct its employees, or management” on how to handle allegations of discrimination.
As a result of the incident, James claims that he suffered “severe emotional distress” and “physical humiliation.” He also claims to have endured “anxiety, depression, anger, and a loss of employment opportunities.”
If Ameena Kaplan is guilty she needs to be exposed & held accountable for her actions. When stories like this come out usually it’s not just ONE person these predators have sexually harrassed. Hope any other men she bullied and sexually harrassed will come forward. #LionKing
— Lisa (@ldstep) October 29, 2022
The lawsuit is calling for Disney and the other defendants to pay an unspecified amount in damages for the “mental, emotional, and physical injury” he has gone through due to the company’s mishandling of his complaints. The filing is also alleging that Disney engaged in unlawful employment practices.
Disney has become a magnet for dirtbags.
— sparklite (@sparklite8) October 29, 2022
This is the second major paternity leave lawsuit that Disney has been hit with in four years. The first one involved Steven Van Soeren who sued Disney in federal court in 2019. In that suit, the Disney Streaming Service employee claimed that he was terminated following a two-week paternity leave.
He eventually lost the case in 2020 when a federal judge dismissed it after Disney claimed federal law only protects the pregnant person and not the father.
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