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Disney IT workers, in lawsuit, claim discrimination against Americans

Patrick Thibodeau | Dec. 13, 2016
Alleges that Disney terminated the employment of the plaintiffs based solely on their national origin and race

After Disney IT workers were told in October 2014 of the plan to use offshore outsourcing firms, employees said the workplace changed. The number of South Asian workers in Disney technology buildings increased, and some workers had to train H-1B-visa-holding replacements. Approximately 250 IT workers were laid off in January 2015.

Now 30 of these employees filed a lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court in Orlando, alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin and race.

The Disney IT employees, said Sara Blackwell, a Florida labor attorney who is representing this group, "lost their jobs when their jobs were outsourced to contracting companies. And those companies brought in mostly, or virtually all, non-American national origin workers," she said.

The people who were laid off were multiple races, but the people who came in were mostly one race, said Blackwell. The lawsuit alleges that Disney terminated the employment of the plaintiffs "based solely on their national origin and race, replacing them with Indian nationals."

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is the second lawsuit filed by Disney workers represented by Blackwell against Disney Parks and Resorts. A lawsuit filed in January by two employees against Disney and two of the IT services contractors, HCL and Cognizant, alleged a conspiracy to displace U.S. workers but lost a key ruling in federal court and was dismissed.

The latest case brings a separate claim, and follows a process where the parties first filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If a settlement isn't possible, the EEOC issues a right-to-sue letter to the former employee.

The lead plaintiff in this new case is former Disney IT employee Leo Perrero, who testified earlier this year before a Congressional subcommittee about his experience in training a replacement.

Something Perrero said he noticed soon after Disney announced the outsourcing plan was "the demographic started changing so quickly." The technology buildings across the Disney campus "just all of a sudden had these South Asian foreign workers."

"It was unfathomable for me to think that this would happen -- that people would be physically replaced by workers who just came in from offshore and were now here in person to replace us. It was completely shocking," said Perrero.

National origin discrimination claims against outsourcers are on the rise. The IEEE-USA is urging the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to ask the Department of Justice to investigate national origin discrimination complaints related to H-1B visa use.

The Disney discrimination lawsuit makes reference to Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, who called the type of replacement training "insulting," based on an interview in June by The Hollywood Reporter.

 

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