Actor files age discrimination charges against Universal Orlando.
Frank Siano worked at Universal for the last 21 years as an Actor, Show Director and Stage Manager.
Actor Frank Siano has filed charges with the EEOC alleging age discrimination and wrongful termination against Universal Orlando. He worked at Universal for the last 21 years as an Actor, Show Director and Stage Manager. He was considered one of their top employees, being recognized by Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts, Tom Williams, at the company’s 20 year celebration last year. His charges claim that he was fired by managers who constantly made fun of his age calling him “old man” and “old timer” in front of other employees on a regular basis.
“I was fired for doing my job”. Mr. Siano performed as the famed “Rocky the Mystic Fountain” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure squirting passersby with water while making comic comments. “I squirted a young girl with water, which I had done thousands of times, making what I thought was a funny comment. The child’s father did not like what I had done and complained. When being terminated, my managers made me feel I was too old and couldn’t be trusted to take a performance note. It’s as if they were saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. In my 21 years working for Universal I was never made aware of any negative guest comment about my many performances.” Frank believes that Universal used this opportunity to get rid of an “older” employee.
If one visits Universal’s Islands of Adventure or watches Mystic Fountain videos on YouTube, one can observe performers doing the same thing Frank was allegedly fired for. On Universal’s official website, they advertise: the Mystic Fountain almost always squirts unwary onlookers brave enough to talk back. Frank has also hired a lawyer and is pursuing a lawsuit against the company for wrongful termination.
Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.
From Rob Pastor
Posted January 8, 2012 at 10:19 AM
I was president of a union for 18 years and the one constant in employee discipline was that you need to know all the facts from both sides before you can make an accurate observation of the case. That being said, if all things are equal & this employee didn't have a past disciplinary problem history, it appears that he would have a favorable case against Universal if it is true they didn't terminate other employees for a similar offense.
I agree with Rob, we don't know all the facts here. Though if this is based on age, that is incredibly sad.
I've worked with Universal Entertainment for a couple years, and can see how some of the managers could possibly do this. It's because of one manager that plays favoritism (apparently I wasn't one of his fav's) that I left Universal and don't plan on returning anytime soon.
From N B
Posted January 8, 2012 at 2:54 PM
Without all the facts, it's hard to judge this. I have heard stories before and thought "That poor person" and then found out it was presented in a way to get a knee jerk reaction.
I recently read a story about a woman who claimed to be disabled after getting a flu shot, then found out she faked the whole thing. She still has a loyal following of people who think it really happened.
I can't believe someone complained about what this guy did in the first place.... Next thing you know, they will stop using the attraction because it hurts people's feelings or some nonsense. It just like schools getting rid of dodge ball because it makes kids feel inferior.
My daughter came home one day and said she got blasted in the face with a dodge ball during gym. My response.. "You should have been quicker"
From N B
Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:06 PM
I don't think I was "standing up" for Universal. I just would like to know exactly what happened before passing judgement either way.
Never thought Id be responding to something like this but cant let it go. i live in central Fl. And have seen this kinda thing in action not only at the parks but at all employment spots. it seams Florida is a Right to Work State. This gives employees little if any leverage with upper mangament. Its sad to say Ive wistnessed good hard working long time employess terminated for for little reason. just that theyve been around a long time. And yes it sounds like so much sore grapes but here in Florida its a fact of life.
ive watched major employers go from full time to hirring part time only to save on bennfit payments. Termminate long time workers so they can hire 2 to 3 partime workers.
Show me any other state were overtime can be manditory. Or were if you call out because your sick it starts a point system rolling. Or your doctor gives you a note requesting you be given time off. And your told I dont have to accept that. This is a fact of life here in the sun shine state. So yea Im siding with the cast memeber.
From Rob P
Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:48 AM
There appear to be two issues going on here.
The first is the question of ageism. If this man was subjected to any form of derision by his managers in front of other staff members then that is wholly unacceptable. The possibility that these comments were based on the gentleman's age needs further investigation by Universal. If the case is proved then I would expect heads to roll, Ageism , as with any other form of discrimination, should be outlawed.
The second question refers to a customer complaining about the comments he may have made whilst performing as the Magic Fountain. I have seen this attraction more than enough times to be of the opinion that any comments are made in good spirit and are, for the most part, accepted and enjoyed by the children and guardians. Anyone with the remotest hyper-sensitivity to adverse comments about their children shouldn't get involved or visit theme parks. Unless, of course, the comments were considered to be discriminatory or unnecessarily cruel or personal. I would be very surprised if a cast member of such experience would do that. But , assuming that the complainant and his child weren't the only people there at the time, there must be other witnesses who would surely have been similarly shocked and dismayed and submitted their own complaints.
In my 21 years working for Universal and having performed in Murder She Wrote, Hercules and Xena, Suess Everything Wagon, tons of special events and over 20 street characters, I was never made aware of a single guest complaint about my performances. I not only played the Mystic Fountain but I was one of the actors who helped develope the role and I have trained many Mystic Fountains over the years. I have always taken pride of my employment at Universal. Each year we are evaluated and I have always received a top rating. Many may not know this but performers have to audition for their roles every year and every year I was rehired. If they did not like my performances they would have let me go then. We are also evaluated by our Show Directors sometimes twice a month. If anything was wrong with my performances it would have been noted. My being fired was a surprise to all and it was a surprise I was not allowed to present my case to the Pier Review Committee which was set up to review these situations. I was told that this situation was not covered by this committee. What a crock! I had fellow Actors, Managers, Park Attendance and Security all line up to speak on my behalf. I was not given the opportunity to present my case in this forum. Having served on this committee I am confidant that I would have been reinstated by my peers. I truly believe my employment was terminated by Managers who saw an opportunity to get rid of me because I was getting older and receiving top dollar for my work. As of today they have not filled my contract but are using part time employees with no benefits saving them tons of money. This is not the way to treat your top employees or any employees. I now find myself unemployed, unable to pay bills, having to go out and get health insurance and possibly loose my home all because a child got squirted with some water. Universal Managers and HR Reps have no idea how they effect other peoples lives when they make stupid decisions like this. Karma!
Frank, welcome to TPI. I wish it were under better circumstances. I was in a similar situation after 28 years of employment(top pay, 6 weeks vacation/year, etc.), so I undertand the hurt- I don't know how you feel, but I understand how it felt to me. I am not going to tell you all the cliches that you have already heard by now except this one: you will find out who your friends are. I was surprised how many I had.
When my situation happened someone told me something that did sound cliche but really did help. They said, "When you're going through hell, keep going! Don't stop. You will come out on the other side."
I hope you keep in touch with us.
Jim and I watched Frank as the fountain for 5 hours one day- we NEVER saw him be anything but funny, entertaining and at times mindful of the littlest ones that they won't slip on the wet pavement when they became over excited- what we did see were SOME children belligerent, rude, aggressive and bad sports- it was a small % - we briefly saw the fountain being run by another actor (using the Rocky name) and he did what Frank had always had done- as well as squirting water at our friend's son's pants- it was funny- no one was fired then....silly politics-silly people...Frank was wrongfully let go...: (
Breakfast At Tiffany's anyone? My treat.
You are so right James. You do get to know who your friends are. I have received so many private messages of support and encouragement. I say private because employees of Universal and future employees are afraid to post on sites like this using their real names because of retaliation. Universal Management is notorious for searching the internet and terminating employees they feel cause a "negative impact on Universal’s image". That is the term they used to terminate me. I know you are out there dear friends. I need your positive thoughts and prayers each day while I take this journey. Maybe if the employees at Universal had Trade Unions to back them things would be different. At least you would not be out there on your own .
"Welcome to Universal Studios Florida, now get the hell on the ride". Frank, you and I worked together for almost 3 years at Murder, She Wrote, and I was fired for a different reason. At least you've got a leg to stand on with age discrimination; being fired for organizing, I had to suck it up and move on with no chance of a law suit and believe me, we tried. The USF "audition" process is a sham, put in place a year after the first attempt at organizing failed as a "legal" way to get rid of troublemakers and thorns in the manager's side. It really has little to nothing to do with performance. In my day, we had insider information that upper management had a "black list" of folks who were in favor of bringing in a union. Guess who ain't there no more. Managers would use ANY reason to fire someone if they wanted to get rid of him or her. And come to think of it, yes, during the first sweep of the "Dearly Departed" out the door, most of us who were let go were older performers. I had not one single performance complaint against me either, and after repeatedly asking them how my audition could be better, they told me I "didn't fit in". Really?!? I still have one of those dorky "service plus award" cards. I don't doubt for one second that Frank was singled out in the way he claims. Management at USF has always been pitted against the actors - Hourly vs Salary. Any complaints we had fell on deaf ears, and we often were treated to the retort "well, you're getting paid for it, aren't you?" Sadly, this firing would not have legs if there was a union at USF. Frank would have gotten his day in the committee and USF knows that. They are not stupid, but they are callous, cold-hearted and calculating in every way to make sure they squeeze as much as they can out of their employees. I always felt bad for those managers who were really nice people but were put in an untenable situation by virtue of their salaried position. A union would have relieved some of that stress. But then there were managers who were just hateful and showed favoritism and you just KNEW they were out for you. One contrary word and bam, your life was hell. Good luck to you, Frank. I hope you kick 'em where they've needed to be kicked for a very looooooong time.
Mike...my real name- born in the 60s the a NYer Model Mom- it was either that or Rema the BirdGirl- or Pepper Pots ( my dad's choice)...
I'm s sorry that the performers are given such gib : ( - I am just a attendee but I wrote a travel guide and called Universal for some support and info and the so-called PR relations was a horrible mean woman!...mmm shouldn't you place someone polite in PR? You Go Frank!
Frank was fired for doing exactly what his character is billed as doing in every piece of literature and promotional blurb Universal has released about the Mystic Fountain. I hope he has retained an excellent lawyer because I've never heard of such a poor excuse for termination. Good luck Frank! Make them bleed!!
From Al Herrick
Posted January 20, 2012 at 9:58 AM
As Frank's co-worker, I haven't met a more honest individual. He was always open to feedback and performed as directed. If he had been given a show note, he would have abided by it. He was very passionate about his work and loyal ot his company. What happened to him was not fair. If previous members of management had been there, it wouldn't have happened. I'm glad you are standing up for your rights Frank!
After 21 years of exemplary work, with no warnings of insubordination, and being recognized by the Chairman and CEO as an exceptional employee - this just doesn't add up. I certainly agree that something is missing, like the actual reason for the termination. Maybe the Chairman and CEO are "in the know", maybe they can tell you. I'd be very interested to "know".
Mr Siano, since you're inviting everyone from facebook to make comments over here, thank you for the invitation.
It's interesting you have filed an age discrimination charge against Universal.
Isn't there a "Wand Keeper" at Harry Potter Attraction that is in his 70's?
When you worked at Murder She Wrote, even back then you called yourself "Old timer". And it's well known (maybe not by management) that you would fall asleep while you were supposed to be working as a show director. Those lights would go out to watch a training video and the employees said they could hear you snoring.
And if I remember correctly, during a union campaign, you were a union member that actually spoke out against your fellow union members and "chose" to side with the company. And then, didn't you give up your union card?
Isn't it ironic Mr Siano? Had you taken the more difficult path of standing up against a corporation and supporting YOUR union, you might actually have protection now.
Since you must know this discrimination charge is absolutely absurd, my guess is you're after some sort of an out of court settlement? Good for you for once again, taking the easy way out. Go after money you don't deserve, but will probably get, because this is all just a petty nuisance to the company.
He's in his 70s he's old people go thru that every day you get old and your not as active as you used to yeah you say(HE'S ONLY 12!!!) but...it is simple thinking and it happens all the time when people turn old, I'm siding with frank here.
...It's all politics- it's horrible that a corporation would mistreat -belittle and unappreciated an individual...and it's just as bad that a Union would expect someone not to have their own opinion separate from the group and behave in a'highschoolish manner...both sides sound like bullies to me : (...main reason I quit teaching...too much of this back biting- too little thought for the children...Sad that really- this is to make people happy...
Weeeeelll, it's one thing to have an opinion apart from one's union, but it's quite another thing to be in cahoots with management at the same time. Fact is, Mr. Siano was not the only union member who worked against the effort; however, Mr. Siano attended confidential organizing meetings so he was in a position to pass along sensitive information. Many people still to this day suspected him of doing so in order to save his own job. It really doesn't matter now- USF has its hooks in the performers- and I hate to see any actor kicked out of a job and have no recourse. Frank has an uphill battle to prove his lawsuit, since there are older performers still working in the park. Here's hoping some good will come out of this morass.
From Rob Pastor
Posted January 21, 2012 at 2:46 PM
Frank: It's generally unwise to discuss the merits of your case on a public forum. Any statements you make may be used against you to your detriment at your hearing. Also, if there was the possibility of future compromise, you may end up burning your bridges. Your lawyer should really advise you to wait until your legal proceedings are over before you discuss this publicly. I understand the anger & hurt of your termination, but sometimes caution is a better alternative.
Rob Pastor thanks for your advice. I will keep that in mind when posting.
Sam you are correct in pointing out that there is a person in their 70’s working as a Wand Keeper. What you fail to mention is that he was once a head of the entertainment department. This fact is irrelevant to my circumstance.
Your personal attacks against me say more about you and less about me. Everyone who knows me knows that I stood up at countless meetings and supported actors and issues, sometimes putting my own job on the line.
You mentioned my Show Director days over 10 years ago and what was said at MSW over 15 years ago. What do those have to do with my current situation? I am sure you can come up with a long list of rumors about and problems with every Show Director and Stage Manager. That comes with the territory.
You are so correct that I was a AEA member and that I sided with the company during a Union campaign. I did this because I believed that the systems set up by Universal would protect the employees and we did not need a third party to represent us at that time. Rusty I do not recall any sensitive information being shared at the Union meetings I attended. They were informational meetings opened to the public. I did not attend any confidential organizing meetings. You may be mixing up two separate organizing campaigns. My job was never in jeopardy so I am not sure where the “saving my job” comes from. It is amazing how these issues still come up after all these years. I have never questioned a fellow Union member's or actor’s integrity but I must say that my integrity was attacked daily and as you can see, still is. I lost a lot of dear friends over this issue. How Sad! I just disagreed with them. My right, in this great country of ours.
Anyone who knows me knows I never take the EASY WAY OUT! I have no idea why you would make a comment like that.
Sam, rumors and how you feel about me set aside do you honestly believe I should have been terminated for squirting a child with water as the Mystic Fountain? THAT, is absolutely absurd. If you think that the decision to file charges against Universal was easy, you’re wrong. I loved working for Universal. I loved the people I worked with. I only hope that you never find yourself in my circumstance. You would feel much differently.
I think it's time to take this discussion private. There's obviously some issues between Frank and some others who have posted. Most of these posts are from people who joined TPI for the sole purpose of throwing their two cents in on Frank's situation. We regular TPI contributors may get into discussions that may become a little rough, but it's never personal.
This discussion is personal. What Rob said is true. This is not the place.
Thank you Mike for your comments. I really had no intention to have a debate on this site. I will refrain from commenting.
Frank, your comments as well as the comments of your supporters and detractors have helped all of us realize that this is a deeply personal and complex situation. It brings home the point that for many people, working in a theme park is a career and not something they do in between semesters at college. I wish you well in the resolution of your situation.
Oh, and thank you and your other Mystic Fountain co-workers for the many times you squirted water at my son and my niece over the past several years. They are grown now, but when they were little, getting bushwacked by the fountain was the highlight of their day at IOA.
From Rob Pastor
Posted January 22, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Dominick: Frank is going through some very trying times with the loss of his job. That is a very inappropriate question under those circumstances.
From Rob Pastor
Posted January 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Dom; That's not approprite either. Losing a job, even more so when your older, is a very tough gut wrenching situation...Dom: Sometimes you show incredible maturity for your age, such as your comment on your 100th posting on the Universal/Disney lighthearted duel. But often you show great immaturity. This is one of those very immature postings... But you seem to be a bright person. You can learn from this.
Luckily as a comic I did see the humor in Dom’s question but Rob thanks for caring about my well being. It is very heart warming to know that people are out there who care. In my many years working at Universal I brought laughter to tens of thousands of people. THAT, is all that I cared about. At Universal, I worked with some of the most talented and professional people I have ever worked with in my 50 years of working in the entertainment industry. I know I have encountered some who did not particularly care for my style of management but as I said before that comes with the territory. I just finished playing Mr. Mushnik in a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” that will also be moving to the Orlando International Fringe Festival this spring and I will soon be performing with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra in “Carousel”. Those jobs are too few and far between and not enough to live on. I really rely on that unemployment check now. Something I never thought I would have to say. I moved down from the New York area 21 years ago so I could work for Universal and I really miss it. As you can imagine I was a fixture at the parks and all my friends work there. That is what truly hurts. Dave was kind enough to post this article about me because he was receiving many inquires asking what had happened to me and if I was OK. THANKS DAVE! Keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
From Rob Pastor
Posted January 22, 2012 at 4:33 PM
Frank: Keep the faith brother & good luck.
I can't believe I'm typing this, but...
+1 to Manny.
From steve lee
Posted January 23, 2012 at 8:29 AM
I skimmed a bit of the back and forth, but did we ever determine what this horrible, horrible thing Frank supposedly said even was? It would greatly shock me if it was inconsistent with what we expect to hear from that fountain. What could possibly have warranted such a dire response?
I also wonder if the folks over at Shrek get similar complaints, since their characters are somewhat rude as well. And of course, I famously got into a shouting match with a recording of Rip Torn because he told me I wasn't moving into the elevator at MIB quickly enough...
That last bit's not true, though I do think that Torn fella is a bit surly. The bottom line is we expect these folks to maintain particular characters, and I doubt Frank said anything that was particularly out-of-character.
Steve, I did not say anything that was inappropriate. The child got wet with water and her father was furious and lodged a complaint. That is the ridiculous reason they gave me. (Created a negative reflection on UO's image)
From steve lee
Posted January 23, 2012 at 9:09 AM
Ah, well that's just craziness then (my misunderstanding is from the initial post that says you made what you thought was a funny comment). By that logic we should be able to get all of Toon Lagoon closed. I'm also gonna go sit in the splash zone at Sea World and get those damn whales fired too.
I'm usually against today's lawsuits because people sue for any reason nowadays. Having said that, I feel that this is one that is shooting fish in a barrel if what I'm hearing is correct.
Thank you mike you had a good point to 1 plus mike
Best of Luck Frank.
Keep your head up, if I can get Disney to overturn a false "No Re-hire" then I'm sure you've got the will and far better fire power then I did to get Universal to overturn this insanity.
I'm not getting into the politics on here, but I will say the only thing I know is that no he DIDN'T say anything inapproporiate. The child had been on tv and the family felt she was a celebrity because of that. They complained about the incident, and rather than a proper handling of it all, they just got rid of him. There may be more to the story, like maybe they did want to get rid of him, that I don't know. Entertainment is really weird though, I think it really depends who the managers and show directors are at the time.. sadly
From Kelly Bean
Posted January 25, 2012 at 9:34 AM
Although I hate to hear the news of someone being out of work, I really feel like there is more to the story. Also, I think it is a little bit tacky to air these types of grievances in this type of public forum.
From Rob P
Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:55 AM
Kelly wrote : I think it is a little bit tacky to air these types of grievances in this type of public forum.
It possibly is a little "tacky" but also cathartic for the guy who obviously feels very upset and offended at how he's been treated. Sometimes you need to get something "off your chest" and also gauge how others might feel. There was no guarantee that he'd be supported here. I do agree that , without hearing both sides of the story, none of us can really comment. But based only on what has been discussed you have to feel for the guy.
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