New York Times-Oct 13, 2016: A federal judge in Florida dealt a blow on Thursday to legal claims by American technology workers who were laid off by the Walt Disney Company and forced to train foreign replacements, dismissing lawsuits by two workers who said Disney had conspired with outsourcing companies to violate visa laws.
In a terse decision, Judge Gregory A. Presnell of the United States District Court in Orlando rejected the former workers’ arguments that Disney and the two contractors had colluded to make false statements when they applied for temporary visas, known as H-1B, for the foreign replacements.
The judge found that “none of the allegedly false statements put at issue in the complaint are adequate” to sustain the former workers’ case. The outsourcing companies that were sued with Disney were Cognizant Technology Solutions and HCL America.
The plaintiffs, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, were laid off early in 2015 from jobs with Disney in Orlando. In their final weeks on the job, they were required to show foreigners on H-1B visas, brought in by the outsourcing contractors mainly from India, how to do their work.
A spokeswoman for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Jacquee Wahler, said, “As we have said all along, this lawsuit was completely baseless, and we are gratified by the decision.”
The former workers’ cases hinged on their argument that the companies had violated clauses of the visa law requiring employers to show that hiring H-1B workers “will not adversely affect the working conditions” of other workers in similar jobs. The law also requires large outsourcing companies that employ many H-1B workers to certify in some circumstances that those workers “will not displace any similarly employed U.S. worker” within six months of applying for the visa.
The outsourcing companies argued that the law would apply to them only if the American workers who were displaced by visa holders they hired had originally been their employees, not Disney’s. Judge Presnell was persuaded by that argument, although he did not entirely reject the idea that the Americans were “adversely affected” by being fired.
The decision was a broad victory for Disney and its contractors, but Judge Presnell left the former workers a small window to amend their lawsuits and to try again.
Mr. Perrero said the decision was a dismaying surprise. “This has become an effective business model in the IT industry where two companies can come together and wipe out American jobs without much fear of legal action,” he said. “I just hope that greed isn’t taking our country in the wrong direction.”
Sara Blackwell, the lawyer who represented the Disney workers, said, “I wanted to see if there was any legal avenue we could use to protect our American citizens, but it seems we can’t.”
Congress considered bills this year to amend provisions in the H-1B visa laws that tech workers say have led to thousands of layoffs, but no action was taken.
The Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, said early in his campaign that he would seek to change the law to prevent layoffs. But he has not addressed the issue recently.