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It may be known as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but two former workers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, were anything but happy after Disney laid them off – along with hundreds of other American workers. They allege that the company made the cuts so it could replace them with cheaper foreign labor.
Former Disney IT workers Leo Perrero and Dena Moore have filed lawsuits against Disney and global consulting companies HCL and Cognizant in a federal court in Tampa, according to The New York Times. The suits charge that Disney and the two outsourcing companies colluded by illegally replacing up to 300 American employees with foreign workers who were in the United States on temporary H-1B visas.
The H-1B visa system, which has an annual quota of 85,000, is a non-immigrant visa designed to allow U.S. employers to recruit and employ foreign workers in specialty occupations or with special skills for up to six years.
“Employers are required to declare to the Department of Labor that hiring foreigners on the visas ‘will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed,'” the Times explains.
“Was I negatively affected?” Ms. Moore asked. “Yeah, I was. I lost my job.”
Perrero and Moore said they both had to train their foreign replacements. Even though the two Americans had worked for Disney for several years, they say neither one was rehired for other positions that they applied for within the company.
Florida attorney Sara Blackwell, who represents both former Disney employees, said they also are seeking class-action status for the lawsuits.
Blackwell told CNN Money that Disney is not alone in using outsourcing firms to hire cheaper foreign workers to replace its American employees. But she said Disney is one of the first companies to be caught. Says CNN Money:
Typically, companies require employees to sign a severance agreement preventing them from suing or speaking out about the firm. [Blackwell] said some companies will offer as much as $20,000.
“Disney didn’t have that. They failed to put the ‘You can’t sue, you can’t talk’ clause,” Blackwell told CNNMoney.
The Times said HCL and Cognizant claim they are careful to comply with U.S. laws. Disney has also claimed no wrongdoing.
“These lawsuits are based on an unsustainable legal theory and are a wholesale misrepresentation of the facts,” the company said in a statement.
The Labor Department is also investigating the outsourcing companies at Disney. In addition, at least 30 former Disney workers have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Times reports.
What do you think about the lawsuits against Disney and the outsourcing companies? Do you think they’re abusing the H-1B program? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.