Disney Parks to Lay Off 28,000 Employees; Cites California's "Unwillingness" to Reopen Disneyland

Disneyland March 14 2020

The Southern California destination has been shuttered since mid-March.

The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday announced that 28,000 employees from the Parks, Experiences and Products segment "at all levels" will be laid off. What's more, the company placed the blame for the decision on California not allowing Disneyland to reopen at this time.

The news comes exactly one week after Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, essentially demanded that Disneyland be allowed to reopen. Gov. Gavin Newsom did not respond.

"In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic — exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen — we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying health care benefits," reads a statement from D’Amaro released Tuesday.

Approximately 28,000 "domestic employees" will be affected by the decision, according to the company. About 67 percent are part-time workers.

"We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members," reads D’Amaro’s statement. "Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal."

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter concerning the Disney layoffs, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, a senior health advisor for the State of California said, "The COVID 19 pandemic has impacted the health and livelihoods of too many workers across this country. In California, our number one priority is to lead with public health to slow the spread of the virus to begin reopening our economy and get Californians back to work safely and sustainably."

He continued, "Our Blueprint for a Safer Economy is driven by science to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission low. Without a vaccine, it is impossible to eliminate the economic impacts caused by this virus, but by taking a measured data- and science-based approach to phasing in and out transmission prevention protocols, we can minimize the health and economic risks that would be caused by opening and shutting repeatedly. Until there's a vaccine, the most important thing all Californians can do to reduce COVID-19 transmission is masking, keeping physical distance and avoiding mixing when possible.”

Last week D’Amaro said to the state and lawmakers, "Help us reopen. We need guidelines that are fair and equitable." He went on to say that the "longer we wait" the more "damage" would be done to the local economy and furloughed employees.

Currently, every county in California is assigned to a tier based on its test positivity and adjusted case rate, which is what the state is using to allow businesses to reopen. Orange County's current tier allows for indoor shopping and outdoor dining, which is how the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district is allowed to operate.

Disneyland has been shuttered since mid-March. A plan was in place to begin reopening Disneyland in July, but that was all sidelined when novel coronavirus cases skyrocketed statewide, forcing state and local officials to roll back business operations permissions.

The Walt Disney World Resort in Flordia has been reopened — albeit with strict health measures and decreased capacity — since July.

Sept. 30, 5:24 a.m.: Updated with statement from Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, a senior health advisor for the State of California.