While Walt Disney Co. is no doubt basking in the success of its live-action version of “The Beauty and the Beast,” which made an estimated $170 million at the box office this weekend, the entertainment giant has also been forced to deal with some labor issues. On Friday, the Department of Labor ordered the Los Angeles-based company to make payouts of $3.8 million dollars in back wages to 16,339 workers, or about $233 per worker.
The problem? Costumes. Specifically, the workers who dressed up as characters at Disney resorts — the famous smiling Mickey Mouses and Donald Ducks — had to foot their own bill for their costumes. And since the cost for those work-related costumes came out of their wages, those workers ended up getting paid less than minimum wage.
“Disney resorts in Florida deducted a uniform or ‘costume’ expense that caused some employees’ hourly rates to fall below the federal minimum wage,” the labor department’s news release stated.
In addition, the labor department’s investigation found that employees were not paid for 15 minutes of work before and after shifts, and the Disney resorts did not keep proper payroll records.
“These violations are not uncommon and are found in other industries, as well,” Daniel White, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Jacksonville, said in a press release about the case. “Employers cannot make deductions that take workers below the minimum wage and must accurately track and pay for all the hours their employees work, including any time they work before or after their scheduled shifts.”
In the past few months, the labor department has found other companies in Minnesota, Massachusetts and South Carolina guilty of violating minimum-wage laws.