Jessica Karmasek Feb. 2, 2016, 1:00pm


ORLANDO (Legal Newsline) - Last week, Walt Disney World was hit with two class action lawsuits over allegations that the company replaced full-time employees with foreign workers in attempt to cut costs.

Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, both Orlando residents and former IT workers for the popular children’s entertainment resort, filed their lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, Jan. 25.

The named defendants in Perrero’s lawsuit include Disney and outsourcing company HCL Inc. Disney and Cognizant Technology Solutions, another outsourcing company, are the named defendants in Moore’s lawsuit.

Both plaintiffs allege they were laid off from their jobs at the Orlando resort in January 2015 and then replaced with less costly immigrant workers living in the U.S. on H-1B visas.

The visa program was introduced by the federal government to offer and enable skilled international professionals and students the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. The H-1B is the most popular and sought-after U.S. work visa.

Under the program, every sponsoring employer must agree to certain labor condition statements, including that the hiring of a H-1B employee will not cause displacement of the U.S. workers in the employer’s workforce and it will not affect the recruitment and hiring of U.S. workers who are equally or better qualified than the H-1B workers.

But that’s exactly what the three companies did, Perrero and Moore allege in their complaints.

“Plaintiff and the other employees were told by Disney management that they were being fired on January 30, 2015, but they had 90 days to train the visa-holders as their replacements,” the lawsuits state. “Plaintiff alleges that he and the other Disney IT employees were told that if they did not stay and train they would not get a bonus and severance, which most employees reluctantly accepted.”

The severance agreement, the plaintiffs noted, did not require the employees to sign away their rights to sue Disney, or speak of the severance.

“Although Disney management told the Plaintiff and other 200-300 employees that there were job openings for them, very few (only a couple) employees were rehired after being fired on January 30, 2015,” the lawsuits state.

However, some terminated Disney employees were told they were blackballed from working at the company in any capacity for at least a year, the complaints allege.

The lawsuits go as far as allege that a senior Disney manager, Tilak Mandadi, has directed the displacement of Disney employees and their replacement with “less qualified but cheaper” foreign workers. The plaintiffs note in their complaints that Mandadi has worked at American Express, FedEx Kinkos, Dell and Enron, all of which used HCL and other outsourcing companies to replace their IT workers with H-1B visaholders.

Disney denies the allegations.

“These lawsuits are based on an unsustainable legal theory and are a wholesale misrepresentation of the facts,” it said in a statement last week.

The company said Moore, for instance, was offered another position within the company at comparable pay, and more than 100 of the workers affected by the changes were rehired.

Sara Blackwell of Sarasota-based The Blackwell Firm is representing both plaintiffs in the lawsuits. Blackwell has worked for large defense firms, and teaches employment law at University of South Florida in Tampa.

Her clients, Perrero and Moore, are seeking damages, treble damages, costs, attorneys fees and injunctive relief.

Judge Gregory A. Presnell has been assigned to oversee both cases.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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Walt Disney World Resort
1701 W Buena Vista Dr
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

The Blackwell Firm
1800 2nd Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

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