Two Fired at Disney Hotel for Defying Order to Shave

Times Staff Writer

Two Disneyland Hotel workers were fired Tuesday for defying orders to shave their mustaches and beards in compliance with a new grooming rule.

Mike Searles, an engineer at the hotel, and Mike Farrington, a bartender, were met by hotel officials and representatives from Disney’s labor relations office at 4 p.m. as they arrived for work. After telling supervisors they did not intend to shave, they were fired, Disney officials said.

“We had no choice but to follow through on this action,” Disney spokesman Bob Roth said. “We made clear for a long time what the standards were and that we intended to enforce them. It would have been unfair to the other employees if we hadn’t.”

Roth said Farrington and Searles were fired for violating the appearance code and for willful insubordination for failure to obey orders to shave. Both men said they would file grievances with their unions against the Walt Disney Co.'s appearance policy and would fight to get their jobs back.


“I feel it’s totally discriminatory and an invasion of my privacy,” said Farrington, a 10-year hotel employee.

Farrington, 40, whose mustache and beard are flecked with gray, said he has worn one or the other for 15 years. “I respect Disney, but not this policy. This is 1988, not 1972, when I was in the Marine Corps. In fact, they are trying to be more strict than the Marine Corps.”

The 1,300 hotel workers were told in January that they would have to adhere to new grooming standards when the hotel was sold by the Wrather Corp. to Walt Disney Co. and Industrial Equity (Pacific) Limited of Hong Kong.

The Disney standards, in effect at the Magic Kingdom since 1957, as well as at other Disney-owned attractions, prohibit beards and mustaches, pants for women in most cases, long fingernails and heavy makeup. Disney officials say the standards are designed to project a wholesome image.

But the ban on beards and mustaches has provoked protest from employees who point to bearded Disney characters and mustachioed Walt Disney himself, in support of their cause.

“I was hired with a mustache; I haven’t shaved it for 15 years and it’s just not right for them to all of a sudden say, ‘You’re operating under new rules now,’ ” said Searles, 40, who sports a handle-bar mustache. “Disney wants to be perceived as a totally modern, 1980s company with the movies they’re making now and everything. But they’re stuck in the past.”

Leaders of the four unions representing Disney Hotel workers also said that the appearance code is outdated and unreasonable and that they will coordinate efforts to fight it.

Searles and Farrington were among six employees suspended last week for refusing to shave after a formal crackdown began March 21. Two others have since shaved, and two more workers who were suspended a day after Searles and Farrington face termination today if they have not shaved, Roth said.