Peter Cosgrove / AP Photo

Former tech workers suing Disney

Two workers say Disney colluded with outsourcing companies to illegally replace them with cheaper labor on H-1B visas

Two former technology employees at Walt Disney World in Florida are suing Disney and the outsourcing companies they say colluded to break the law and replace workers with less costly immigrant labor.

Representing both former employees, attorney Sara Blackwell filed lawsuits in Tampa federal court Monday against Disney and two consulting companies, HCL Inc. and Cognizant. Both outsourcing companies are known for submitting large numbers of applications for H-1B visas.

Blackwell said her clients, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, were among 250 tech workers laid off by Disney last year. The lawsuits seek class-action status, and aims to "kick them [outsourcing companies] at their business model, to stop them from systemically abusing the immigration system," Blackwell told the Orlando Sentinal.

Blackwell said Disney is colluding with consulting companies to abuse visas meant to fill specialty occupations and replace American workers with immigrants.

By law, H-1B visa holders cannot replace American workers. The suit alleges that is what Disney and the two companies did. According to preliminary filings, Blackwell said the employees were offered bonuses to train the new workers who would replace them.

The H-1B visa was designed in 1990 ago to allow American businesses to hire temporary foreign workers with "highly specialized knowledge" when they "cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce."  85,000 of such visas are issued annually, but tech companies say more are needed to make up for the lack of American workers with proper science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training. The visa has become a hot-button issue in tech, and Congress has increased the fees companies that employ large numbers of workers on H-1B visas must pay. 

Disney said in a statement that the lawsuits are based on an unsustainable legal theory and are a misrepresentation of the facts. Cognizant said in a statement that it complies with all U.S. regulations regarding the visas.

An email sent by The Associated Press seeking comment from HCL wasn’t immediately returned.

According to the Sentinel, the outsourcing firms said in forms under oath that working conditions of "similarly situated employees would not be adversely affected," according to the lawsuits.

"Every time they file these, they are lying and falsifying documents," Blackwell is quoted as saying. "Disney is aware there are these requirements and Cognizant and HCL are lying."

Al Jazeera with The Associated Press

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