Disney accused of misusing H-1B visa program to boot American workers

Things are not quite so chipper in the Land of the Mouse these days. A number of workers in the Disney empire lost their jobs and they’re none too happy about it. In the current economy that’s not much of a shocker, but these folks seem to have a very specific complaint. According to the the allegations heading to court, Disney got rid of a number of American workers in order to replace them with lower cost foreign workers using the H-1B visa program to get into the country. (Orlando Sentinel)

Two former Walt Disney World tech employees filed federal lawsuits against the company Monday, accusing it and two outsourcing firms of conspiring to replace workers with less costly foreign ones using H-1B visas.

The lawsuits were filed in federal court, in the Middle District of Florida, by Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, who were among 250 Disney tech workers laid off about a year ago. The lawsuits seek class-action status.

Defendants include HCL Inc. and Cognizant Technologies.

Sara Blackwell, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuits aim to “kick them [outsourcing companies] at their business model, to stop them from systemically abusing the immigration system.”

While these are still allegations at this point, I’m seeing some very typical language in the Disney response. Rather than saying that it never happened or that the workers were let go for cause, etc. there are terms being bandied about such as, unsustainable legal theory and a declaration that they have complied with all applicable employment laws. Such arguments may or may not wind up carrying the day in a court of law, but the layman’s translation which immediately comes to my mind is that they checked with their lawyers in advance and were pretty much assured that they could get away with it.

But particularly in the current climate of unrest, I wonder if they actually can. They’re hiring people who are coming here under the H-1B system which was designed specifically so employers could bring in the best and the brightest potential immigrants to fill jobs where the employer was unable to find a suitable candidate who is a citizen. Further, for each H-1B applicant, the employer has to affirm that, “similarly situated employees would not be adversely affected.” Is that really the case here? There were already some former employees taking them to court over similar charges and some of them had to be involved with the transition to the new workers. (Emphasis added.)

Separately, about two dozen of the Disney workers who were laid off have made complaints to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Those are still under review. Those complaints allege discrimination because of nationality, race and age. Also, because some workers say they had to train their replacements to receive bonuses and severance, Blackwell has said lawsuits stemming from the EEOC complaints will also likely allege a hostile work environment.

If you’re being told that you need to train your H-1B replacements before you get your pink slip, that sounds to me like there were American workers available and that the “similarly situated workers” were most definitely affected. And what happens if the new workers don’t wind up being up to snuff and they are let go? We’ve already learned that immigrants who overstay their visas are not tracked in 99.95% of all cases, so the discharged alien employees can simply head off into the community with little fear of being pursued.

It’s time for a complete revamp of the visa system. It’s not only being abused by those seeking to come to American and stay illegally, but by employers as well. If you want to cut down on illegal immigration, start prosecuting huge outfits like Disney for things such as this.