Two former employees of Walt Disney World sued the company and two outsourcing companies — HCL Technologies and Cognizant — on Monday, accusing them of conspiring to replace American workers with less costly foreigners.
The employees, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, were among the 250 fired by Disney in 2015, and replaced by foreign workers on H-1B visas, mostly from India, provided by HCL and Cognizant.
They have said in their federal lawsuits, for which they have sought class-action status (which all those affected can join), that they were fired after being forced to train their replacements, and were denied alternate employment at Disney.
The lawsuits asserted that the companies violated US laws that mandated them to ensure that when hiring foreign workers, the working conditions of “similarly situated employees would not be adversely affected”.
“Every time they file these, they are lying and falsifying documents,” Sara Blackwell, the attorney representing the employees, told Orlando Sentinel.
The lawsuits aim to “kick them (outsourcing companies) at their business model, to stop them from systemically abusing the immigration system,” Blackwell added.
Disney said in a statement: “These lawsuits are based on an unsustainable legal theory and are a wholesale misrepresentation of the facts.”
HCL and Cognizant both said in separate statements that they comply with all US laws.
This is not the first time an Indian outsourcing firm has been sued in the US. Infosys paid $34 million in 2013 to settle a case brought against it by an employee accusing it of using business travel visas to bring in short-term workers.
The US grants 85,000 H-1B visas every year to highly skilled foreign workers hired temporarily — for a maximum period of six years — by American employers to make good a shortage of locally available hands.
But critics allege that employers have used H-1Bs to replace American workers with less costly workers from abroad.
Supporters of the H-1B visa programme, however, who include several lawmakers, have argued instead for raising the annual cap. A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013 raised the cap in phases to 180,000 a year.
But the larger bill fell, and with it the H-1B provision.
Opposition to H-1B has been mounting in the meantime.
The US department of labour is investigating the dismissal of American employees at Disney and Southern California Edison, which laid off 540 workers in 2014.
At least 30 former Disney employees have lodged a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that they have been discriminated against.