I'm glad I got your attention. We have a pressing matter at hand.
A Letter to Marion Hammer.
Dear Ms. Hammer:
I am an attorney in Orlando, Florida. I understand that you are supporting the proposed Personal Private Property Protection Act introduced to the Florida Legislature this year. I wanted to bring a matter to your attention that relates to this Bill.
I represent Doug and Linda Gray, a husband and wife who were both employed by the Walt Disney World Company. They worked similar shifts, and traveled to work together. The Grays had to begin their commute before sunrise, and had to travel through some less than safe areas. In fact, they had been accosted on their commute to work in the past. They contacted law enforcement about this and were advised that they should purchase a firearm for their own protection during their commute. Based on this advice, Mr. Gray purchased a revolver to protect he and his wife. When the Grays arrived at work, the revolver was locked in their vehicle.
The Grays were both hired by Disney on November 13, 1996. They met at Disney during the final entry interview process, and were later married. Just 17 days before their 10th anniversary of employment at Disney, they were both terminated. While Mrs. Gray was being asked about an absence from work, she responded that her husband was unable to attend, and she didn't feel safe traveling into work without him. Upon further questioning, Mrs. Gray revealed that Mr. Gray had the firearm in their vehicle for their protection. Disney had the vehicle searched, and the firearm was found, locked in the vehicle where the Grays indicated it was. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gray were terminated. Additionally, Disney had the Orange County Sheriffs issue a trespass warning against Mr. and Mrs. Gray, so that neither could step foot on any Disney property again.
I attempted to intervene on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Gray. However, Disney would not allow me to participate in their review of this incident. Disney claimed that they had a zero tolerance policy with respect to firearms on their property. They would not listen when they were told that the revolver belonged to Mr. Gray, and that Mrs. Gray had never even handled the same. They would not listen when they were told about the Grays' commute and how it was dangerous for them to travel to work at the times they were scheduled.
Moreover, Disney showed no leniency toward the Grays whatsoever. The punishment for Mrs. Gray was the same as for Mr. Gray, because she knew that he kept a firearm in the vehicle and the vehicle was titled in both of their names. Disney did not take the Grays' years of service into account when they were terminated. Disney did not take into account the fact that the Grays voluntarily reduced their hours in the post-September 11, 2001 tourist slump, so that Disney would not have to lay off as many employees. Disney would not even withdraw the trespasses against the Gray so that they could bring their grandchildren to the parks when they visited on vacation. Mr. Gray was originally granted unemployment compensation, but Disney fought that as well and now Mr. Gray is obligated to pay back the unemployment benefits he was paid.
Doug and Linda Gray are good people. They had recently bought a house and were working hard to pay for the same. They worked for Disney for almost 10 years, and they no plans to change their careers. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world. The Grays had been threatened by criminals on their commute to work during the pre-dawn hours. Mr. Gray purchased a firearm for the sole purpose of protecting himself and his wife so that they could continue to show up for work at Disney. However, when Disney discovered that there was a firearm in its parking lot, Disney fired these hard working, long time employees without hesitation, without remorse, and without any recourse. When Disney was given the opportunity to show leniency, it failed to do so.
In short, Mr. Gray lost his job because he wanted to protect himself and his wife when they were traveling to and from work. Mrs. Gray lost her job simply because her husband wanted to keep her safe during their commute. Their lives have been thrown into upheaval because they were willing to take responsibility for their own safety. Certainly Disney did nothing to keep them safe during their commute; to the contrary, in complete disregard for the safety and welfare of its employees, Disney prohibits employees, such as the Grays, from protecting themselves while traveling to and from work.
The Grays understand that there was no law preventing Disney from terminating them as it did. However, they have asked me to share their story with you and with the Florida Legislature, so perhaps other good citizens of Florida are protected from similar actions in the future.
If I can provide any additional information on this topic that would be useful to you or the Florida Legislature, please do not hesitate to contact me. Until then, I remain,
Very truly yours,
Ernest J. Myers, Esq.
Orlando, FL 32801