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The Walt Disney Company is being sued by a man who has written books about the company and now says he was fired from his position in the archives division after reporting a female colleague who sent lewd text messages to a male colleague.
Robert Klein, former manager of collections and preservation, filed his complaint on Monday in California federal court.
According to the complaint, “This is a case about Walt Disney Company’s attempt to cover up sexual harassment at the company by willfully retaliating against and firing the very person who reported the harassment in the first place, a person of impeccable credentials and former archivist for Disney who appeared on television for the company several times and wrote multiple books about Disney’s history.”
“Yet, according to Disney, the man who wrote their history is a liar who Disney has now blackballed in the entertainment industry,” continues the lawsuit.
A Disney spokesperson responds, “This lawsuit is absolutely without merit.”
Klein, who says he worked at Disney from 2007 until 2011 and had unfettered access to the company’s archives, believes his termination had something to do with a report that he filed with the company’s human relations department.
In the report, Klein targeted Andrea Carbone, a woman who he says has a “known history of sexual harassment-type issues … having been involved in a prior scandal,” which is not detailed.
Specifically, Klein says that Carbone was inappropriate towards Kiara Gellar, a man who came to him and according to the lawsuit, reported that Carbone wanted him to stay with her in her hotel room during the Walt Disney Archives’ stay in Anaheim, Calif., during the week of August 19-21, 2011, where the Walt Disney Archives was to be exhibiting assets from Disney history at the D23 Expo.
Gellar allegedly told Klein that Carbone made advances towards a relationship and that Carbone was aggressive and confrontational. “Gellar expressed that he was alarmed,” says the lawsuit.
Klein then says that he was going to report it to HR when Carbone phoned him up, crying, and demanded that he fire Gellar.
The next day, Klein contacted HR.
Over the next couple of weeks, there was more drama. At one point, Klein says he suspected that Gellar was being blackmailed. Eventually, an investigation commenced, and Klein sat back, saying he wasn’t provided “details of the alleged harassment, nor was he ever shown the lewd, inappropriate and pornographic text messages being sent by Carbone to Gellar.”
After HR investigated, Klein says he reported to the office of the archives director and was “blindsided with termination,” and given the reasons that he had not filled out paperwork correctly when Gellar was hired and that he “lied” during the investigation.
What Klein says he didn’t know was that Carbone and Gellar had a prior relationship with each other.
“Klein did not know details about Gellar’s personal life,” says the lawsuit. “Moreover (although it is not true that Klein knew about any prior relationship between Gellar and Carbone), even if Klein had known about a prior relationship between Gellar and Carbone, such would have been irrelevant to Gellar’s hiring, particularly given that many Disney employees are either married, have ongoing relationships and had prior relationships before hiring. Simply put, having a relationship before or even after hiring at Disney was not against company policy.”
Klein says that “hundreds, if not thousands, of Disney employees have either engaged in romantic relationships before or after coming to Disney.”
The former company archivist, who says he was “de-friended” on Facebook by many other Disney employees, is demanding compensatory damages, lost wages, reinstatement and promotion, and says the incident has cost him dearly.
“Disney’s retaliatory actions have blackballed Klein in the archiving community, which is a tight-knit community, and have destroyed his otherwise impeccable career and reputation,” says the lawsuit.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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