PARIS (AP) — The Euro Disney group went on trial in France on Wednesday for publishing an allegedly discriminatory job ad a decade ago requesting that candidates have "European citizenship" to work as parade artists at its famous Disneyland Paris theme park.
The trial in a court in Meaux, outside Paris, on Wednesday came after anti-racist associations filed a complaint. They claimed Euro Disney discriminated on grounds of nationality in hiring dancers, bungee acrobats, jugglers, flag launchers, puppeteers and stilt walkers when it published the ad in a newspaper 10 years ago.
Euro Disney has acknowledged that the ad's wording was clumsy but has denied any discriminatory intent and notably any attempt to cast aside candidates originating from Africa.
The European branch of Walt Disney Co. faces up to 225,000 euros (251,000 dollars) in fine if found guilty of hiring discrimination.
The French anti-racist association SOS-Racisme, which filed the first complaint, has claimed that Euro Disney deliberately set an illegal requirement for "European citizenship" in its 2006 job ad "in order to exclude job applicants originating from North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey," according to court documents.
The lawyer for the association, Catherine Bahuchet, said "the legal process is still meaningful, even 10 years after the facts at issue, because Euro Disney has a double standard with on one hand claims of ethnic diversity among its staff and, on the other hand, an actual practice of hiring discrimination."
"We must never lower our guard on all forms of discrimination," Bahuchet said in a phone interview before the trial.
Euro Disney has said the disputed job ad was an "isolated blunder" and that "no other ad with this unlawful mention has been published," according to court documents. It has argued that the 10 years of legal proceedings by SOS Racisme have been motivated by the fact that Euro Disney is a "good target for the media."
Euro Disney said that of the 120 seasonal positions up for hiring through the 2006 job ad, only 20 were actually filled, with three of them granted to candidates outside the European Union. Court documents show the three non-Europeans hired came from the U.S., Switzerland and Brazil.
The legal proceedings took an unusually long time to come to court because the prosecutor's office in Meaux has consistently resisted any trial for Euro Disney in the case, saying a discriminatory intent by the company wasn't proven.
The Disneyland Paris amusement park, east of the French capital, has the most visitors than any other attraction in Europe with about 15 million visitors per year. Euro Disney says more than 100 different citizenships and 20 languages are represented among its staff at the park.