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Mascaro Negotiates Labor Deals for Happiest Place on Earth

June 7, 2012 | Alumni

While a score of her classmates are probably settled at law firms, Briana Seagriff Mascaro ’10 opted to work somewhere that has more flying carpets and mice than an ordinary office.

Mascaro, a labor relations manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. located in Lake Bueno Vista, Fla., joked of “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” “I drank the Kool-Aid long ago” because she worked for the company even before law school.

As an undergrad at Cornell University, Mascaro landed a six-month internship with Disney’s employee relations department, which introduced her to in-house equal employment opportunity investigations. In her internship Mascaro investigated complaints of discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, marital status, and any other category protected by law.

“This is what led me to law school and is directly related to how I landed my current job,” she said.

A labor and employment buff since her undergraduate, Mascaro went on to pursue her J.D. at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she said she found inspiration through Camille Hébert, Carter C. Kissell Professor of Law.

“Through her teachings, I was able to expand my knowledge in a field that now affects my job on a day-to-day basis. Professor Hébert would play devil’s advocate to student views,” Mascaro said. “I learned from her and was able to see how her own perspective changed over time, by the switch in her own career from pro-management to pro-plaintiff representation. Professor Hébert didn’t push her views onto us, but made us more well-rounded and better prepared.”

Mascaro said she was also drawn to labor and employment law because “everyone belongs to the ‘world of work,’ yet so few of us really understand the laws that apply and can impact our livelihood.”

After law school, Mascaro moved to Orlando, Fla., where she said she worked toward being hired by Allen Norton & Blue, P.A.

“I consistently and constantly emailed the managing partner until he gave me 10 minutes for coffee. After the hour ‘coffee talk,’ he informed me that we could consider it a first-round interview,” Mascaro said. “After another round of interviews with other attorneys in the office, he offered me a spot, conditional on passing the bar.”

She officially joined the firm as an associate in fall of 2010. Mascaro said although the experience gave her an inside look at a real law firm and the importance of labor and employment law to corporations, she discovered working at a firm wasn’t for her.

“I just disliked the life of a law firm attorney,” Mascaro said. “My time at AN&B was amazing. I absolutely love the world of management side labor and employment law. As an associate there, I gained exposure to the entire litigation process, discovery, depositions, arbitrations, etc. The firm has a lot of private sector clients, but more public sector clients.”

Fortunately, Mascaro crossed paths with her former Disney boss, Christie Sutherland, manager of labor relations, who informed her that a position had opened in the department.

Mascaro said, without hesitation, she considered it a great opportunity to expand on her collective bargaining background and obtain firsthand interaction with the operations of the business. She was offered the position and since accepting said she can’t imagine working anywhere else.

“I knew I needed a change and when the opportunity to work for Disney came along, I couldn’t ignore it. It was a tough decision to leave the true legal world behind,” Mascaro said. “Although I use the skills that I acquired at Moritz every day, I do not technically ‘practice law.’ But I’m okay with that. I get to do everything I learned without the pressure of billable hours.”

Offering some advice to students in the midst of a job search, Mascaro said students should “set their priorities first, and never give up. I politely stalked anyone whom I thought had a job opportunity to offer me. I never had a sense of entitlement — I realized I was only as good as the next best candidate.

“But I also never settled and never stopped applying. I went to law school because of my passion for labor and employment but I knew even then that some type of human resources or collective-bargaining path was for me. I did not compromise what I really wanted.”

Working at one of the largest single site employers in the nation, Mascaro said her job requires her attention almost 24/7.

“My work day starts off by sorting through all of the emails that came in from the night before. I am responsible for representing the Company in any of our entertainment grievances filed by unions,” Mascaro said.

In representing the Company, Mascaro corresponds directly with managers about outgoing investigations regarding actors, musicians, and collective bargaining contracts, to name a few.

Mascaro said the most challenging part of her position is learning the Actors’ Equity collective bargaining agreement because of its “niched rules.”

“The current contract establishes fair wages, working conditions and benefits, in addition to assuring the continuity of operation for the Company and the protection and rights for the union. However, I have found that a provision may mean one thing according to the law, but another in the real world. Trying to learn this has been the biggest challenge,” she said.

Mascaro said as the Actor’s Equity’s current contract with Disney is scheduled to expire in September she and her team have been preparing to negotiate the new contract.

“Preparation for negotiations requires my team and I to learn and watch every show on the property. I have to learn and understand the concerns and issues regarding each and every show as it impacts our cast members covered by the collective bargaining agreement. This opportunity grants me exposure to all levels of the Company.”

Despite the challenges, Mascaro said she finds satisfaction in her job through “making magic! Knowing I contribute to the ‘most magical place on earth’ makes me smile.

“Every time I am super-swamped and cannot leave my desk, I think about how I am helping to make the next kid that walks into Walt Disney World smile.”

Mascaro got married in October 2011, to Sebastian Mascaro. Her husband runs two businesses, one of which is his own telecommunications firm, providing cellphone detections services to prisons. The couple also owns property in Ithaca, New York. “By day I am a labor relations manager, by night a property manager.”

Outside of work Mascaro enjoys coming home to spend time with her husband and dog, “Wall-E.” The couple also enjoys the unlimited access to park accommodations, where they attend shows and concerts — the perks of a job that allows her to enjoy the “magic” that she helps create.

By Callie Broomfield