Disney IT Workers, in Lawsuit, Claim Discrimination Against Americans

Patrick Thibodeau, Computer World, December 12, 2016

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.”

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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.”

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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 citizenship 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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Iger’s view about offshore outsourcing may ultimately affect more people than just those at Disney.

Iger was recently appointed by President-elect Donald Trump, along with 15 other business executives, to help the president “bring back jobs and make America great again,” according to the Trump transition team announcement. Iger is also co-chair of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group that advocates for increasing H-1B numbers and argues it increases job growth.

The membership of the “President’s Strategic and Policy Forum” appears tilted toward firms that favor offshore outsourcing of IT. This includes the forum’s chair, Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone, a private equity firm.

In April, Blackstone acquired a majority stake in Mphasis, an India-based IT services firm, from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise for about $1.1 billion. “The all-cash deal reinforces Blackstone’s bullish outlook on the outsourcing business, where western clients send IT jobs to countries such as India to cut costs,” wrote Reuters in a news report about the deal.

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