Disney Accused of Conspiring to Replace Florida Employees With Non-U.S. Workers

Two former tech staff members file lawsuits claiming the entertainment company abused the H-1B visa program

2 February 2016

Approximately 250 technology workers at Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Fla., were laid off in October 2014, some of whom spent their final months training non-U.S. workers to take their place. Two of the people who were let go filed lawsuits recently in federal court against the Walt Disney Co. as well as two hiring agencies that brought in the workers to replace them.

The former employees claim the companies colluded to use temporary H-1B visas, which allow employers to recruit and employ non-U.S. workers in specialty occupations such as engineering for a specified period of time. One of the rules for acquiring such visas requires employers to declare to the U.S. Department of Labor that hiring non-U.S. workers “will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.”

The two are seeking class-action status for their lawsuits. According to The New York Times, it is the first time American workers have gone to federal court to sue outsourcing companies that brought in non-U.S. workers as well as a U.S. company that contracted with those businesses.

Some 30 former Disney employees also filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stating they faced discrimination as American citizens.

In a statement, Disney said it had rehired more than 100 of the laid-off workers. “These lawsuits are based on an unsustainable legal theory and are a wholesale misrepresentation of the facts,” the company says. The two recruitment agencies say they complied with H-1B laws.

TAKING ACTION

The Times noted that IEEE-USA posted an online petition to encourage Americans who were displaced to file complaints with the U.S. Justice Department. IEEE-USA is available to help members file a complaint.

In an article published on IEEE-USA InSight, Russell Harrison, IEEE-USA’s director of government relations, wrote: “When used by outsourcing companies, H-1B visas undermine the American economy, drain our country of jobs and skills, and enable companies to exploit workers, American and non-American. It is time these abuses are stopped.”

The U.S. government is making an attempt to slow down the number of American employees being replaced. In December, Congress increased the fee from US $2,000 to $4,000 for each new H-1B visa and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) put forth a bill to reduce the number of the visas allowed each year, from 85,000 to 70,000. Another bill introduced in December by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is running for president, would discourage abuses by setting a minimum annual salary for H-1B workers at $110,000.

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