Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

Over the past few days, I have been outraged by the Sesame Place disaster. I’m not only outraged by what has happened to these young children, but am outraged by the Sesame Place response.  

It is sad when any character at a theme park has to rush off to another location leaving children behind, or simply misses a child. It happens. However, seeing a character deliberately ignore children based on the color of their skin is wretched. 

Like millions of Americans this week, I watched a video of two beautiful, little Black girls be ignored at a theme park by a character they are growing up with, a character that is helping to shape their lives, a character they clearly love and hold dear, all while the little girls innocently wear their Sesame Street backpacks. These children do not understand the character that rejected them at the theme park was just a terribly flawed person dressed in costume. All these children see is she got a high five, she got a hug, and I was rejected. Now, mothers and fathers have to console…reassure…and explain what has happened at the end of what should have been a joyous day. “This Rosita” should have been fired. I’ll say this Rosita knowing that different people will dress as this character at different times.

The video shows this Rosita waving off the two girls and turning away.  In response to the video, Sesame Place stated that, “The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding.” Did they really say Rosita is devastated? This is laughable. No, those children, their parents, the public are devastated.  Sesame Place attempts to write this off as Rosita signaling “no” to people in the crowd requesting that Rosita hold their child for a photo.  Wrong response Sesame Place.  Just…wrong response.  

This Rosita’s actions were abhorrent. Yet, Sesame Place yours were more so. Now, Sesame Place, you should face the anger of millions of Americans because of the way you handled the situation! Or better put, chose not to handle it. Your initial response signals that you excuse and condone such discriminatory behavior. The subsequent apology, acknowledgment that “it’s not OK,” and announcement of employee training sends the signal that you are insincere and only changing your tune for the benefit of Sesame Place’s business interests.   

I do not presume to know the true character of the people at the top of the Sesame Place hierarchy. However, if your business truly abhors discrimination in any form, the best response when something happens is to own it and rapidly address it. You’ll get more respect and probably a lot less backlash. 

No one expects Sesame Place, or any other business, to be perfect. Sometimes the wrong people will get past the application and hiring process and enter the building starting fires. When that happens, lies and cover ups only add fuel to the flames. Sesame Place, and other businesses, your responsibility is to douse the flames by taking the appropriate actions.  

For any reputable business, it does not serve your business interests to protect employees that show – through their discrimination against others – that they have very little concern for those business interests.

In Plaintiff’s employment law, many employees end up in our office because they work with someone like this Rosita and their employer ignores the discriminatory behavior or worse yet tries to cover it up. If you work with someone like this Rosita who has discriminated against you, or your employer has retaliated against you for complaining about discriminatory treatment you have been subjected to, contact an employment lawyer right away.  

Businesses need to take better care because sometimes the difference between a resolution and a revolution is the response.

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We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.