Disney Sued Over Worker Discrimination Allegations

A group of information technology workers have sued Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (NYSE:DIS) over alleged workplace discrimination violations. The 30 laid off IT workers says they were fired and replaced by contractors from India, making them victims of national origin discrimination. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court of Orlando.

Disney said 250 employees were let go in October 2014 under an IT restructuring and that their work involved skills the company no longer needed. Disney also announced at the time that the company would be using an offshore outsourcing firm for future hiring. The company then began hiring H-1B visa workers from overseas at a rapid pace.

According to the lawsuit, each replacement worker was of Indian origin, and was either brought from overseas or working outside the United States. The lawsuit said, “Plaintiffs were subjected to disparate treatment by defendant solely based on race or color and ancestry.” The lawsuit also alleges age discrimination violations of the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act.

Many of the IT workers were told they would need to train their replacements before they were fired at the end of 2014. According to reports, Disney threatened to not give its employees severance if they didn’t train the new hires. The lawsuit said the workers applied for other jobs with Disney but weren’t hired. However, the company said more than 100 of the workers whose jobs were eliminated eventually were rehired.

Sara Blackwell, the attorney representing the former employees, claims that the workers “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.” Court papers do not specify the race and nationality of the plaintiffs who have joined the suit.

The suit says the actions by Disney caused the workers to “experience pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and loss of earnings and other employment benefits and job opportunities.” The former workers are seeking punitive damages. A statement from Disney called the lawsuit “nonsense.”

Two similar lawsuits were previously dismissed by a federal judge this fall. A lawsuit filed in January by two employees against Disney and two IT service contractors, HCL and Cognizant, claimed that the contractors made false statements on the visa forms for the workers who would replace them. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to end the outsourcing of American jobs as part of his campaign, saying he was “totally committed” to eliminating abuse of the H-1B visa.