HR Management & Compliance

Time Capsule: Disney’s 1943 Employee Handbook

Through the magic of Google Docs, the Walt Disney 1943 employee handbook is now publicly available online. We’ve taken a peek, and it’s clear that some of the policies have not aged nearly as well as Mickey himself.

The handbook (you can check it out here), published by the Walt Disney Productions personnel department, covers employees working at the then-newly built Burbank studio complex.

It’s just a few dozen pages long and visually reads more like a comic book than a modern-day personnel manual, full of lighthearted illustrations undoubtedly created by Disney’s own artists.   

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Most of the illustrations are meant to humorously convey everyday workplace situations — for example, an employee dashes to the time clock a few minutes after eight as winged dollar bills fly out of his pocket — but a few would definitely not be appropriate for today’s workplaces.

Like the one where a curvy female employee is perusing the workplace bulletin board and her male co-worker is frankly perusing her. Even worse, his gaze is pointedly directed at her derriere (his leering is unfortunately something of a recurring theme throughout the short handbook).


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Policies That Don’t Stand the Test of Time

Here’s what the Disney handbook has to say on sick leave:

Women employees are entitled to ten days’ sick leave each year, but not more than five consecutive days at one time.

Male employees are entitled to five days’ sick leave each year, but not more than three consecutive days at one time.

There’s also a policy on something called the Penthouse Club, accompanied by an illustration of several happy male employees sunning themselves on a rooftop (one is burnt to a red crisp):

For all particulars, membership, and like that, check with Walt Pfeiffer.

Men only! Sorry, gals…

A Simpler Age of HR

Today’s HR professionals would certainly appreciate the simplicity of insurance options offered (just two: group and hospitalization/surgical), as well as company holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).


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But hopefully you’re not dealing with as many unions as Disney was in 1943:

Our employees are represented by thirty-three (33) separate unions. Your job will probably fall under the jurisdiction of one of them.

Tomorrow, more tidbits from the handbook — as well as a foolproof way to ensure that your handbook hasn’t fallen into the common trap of becoming a relic in its own time.

Download your free copy of 20 Must-Have Employee Handbook Policies today!