Two former Disney employees are suing Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, accusing the company of colluding with a pair of global consulting companies to replace them with foreign workers—who the outgoing employees had to then train.
In October 2014, Disney laid off some 250 technology workers, mostly in Orlando. In a statement, spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler explained that the company was “restructuring our global technology organization to support future innovation and new capabilities.”
The following June, the New York Times published a story on those employees being forced to train their replacements. (Toys R Us was subject to similar scrutiny last year.) Adding possibly illegal insult to injury, the replacements seemed to be on temporary H-1B visas. Only 85,000 such visas are granted annually. The Times reported:
According to federal guidelines, the visas are intended for foreigners with advanced science or computer skills to fill discrete positions when American workers with those skills cannot be found. Their use, the guidelines say, should not “adversely affect the wages and working conditions” of Americans. Because of legal loopholes, however, in practice, companies do not have to recruit American workers first or guarantee that Americans will not be displaced.
Too often, critics say, the visas are being used to bring in immigrants to do the work of Americans for less money, with laid-off American workers having to train their replacements.
“The program has created a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans,” said Ronil Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University who studies visa programs and has testified before Congress about H-1B visas.
Those employees who were laid off were encouraged to apply for other jobs at the company, but hardly any were re-hired. None wanted to be named at the time, but one of them is Leo Perrero, who is now suing Disney.
According to the Times, Perrero and Dena Moore initially filed their lawsuits separately; however, on Monday, they submitted a motion seeking class-action status. This would be the first time that American workers have taken both their former employer and outsourcing companies to federal court in such a case.
Perrero and Moore have both accused Disney and the consulting companies it hired to replace them, HCL and Cognizant, of colluding to skirt the H-1B guidelines. The Department of Labor requires employers to hire foreigners on such visas to declare that doing so “will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.”
“Was I negatively affected?” Moore asked. “Yeah, I was. I lost my job.”