While the Walt Disney Company routinely makes headlines throughout the world for everything from its films to its theme parks, it made headlines of a different sort earlier this year when it announced that around 250 tech workers employed by Disney World in Orlando were being laid off.
News stories later revealed that these tech workers were being replaced with H-1B visa holders and that those slated for termination were required to provide these replacements with training in their final weeks on the job as part of the severance agreement.
In late January, two terminated workers each filed similar federal lawsuits seeking class-action status against Disney and the two global consultancy firms that brought in their H-1B replacements.
These first-of-their-kind lawsuits alleged that the three companies colluded to intentionally replace the terminated American IT workers with foreign replacements by making false statements on the applications for H-1B visas.
Specifically, the lawsuits argued that the companies had all violated clauses of the H-1B visa laws, which dictate that a declaration must be submitted to the Department of Labor swearing that the hiring of H-1B workers "will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed."
In recent developments, the presiding federal judge in Tampa dismissed the two lawsuits just last week, finding that "none of the allegedly false statements put at issue in the complaint are adequate" to allow the fired workers case to move forward.
The judge appears to have found the argument advanced by the consultancy firms that the laws in question would only be applicable to them if the terminated workers replaced by the H-1B visa holders were initially their employees, not those of Disney, persuasive.
While this would appear to be the end of the matter, experts have indicated that the judge did leave a small window open for amending the lawsuits concerning the issue of whether the workers were adversely affected by the termination.
It's also worth noting that this has emerged as an issue on Capitol Hill, where Congress considered bills introduced by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to amend certain aspects of the H-1B visa program this year.
Stay tuned for updates …
If you have questions relating to H-1B visas, or other pressing immigration matters, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can explain the law and help you pursue solutions.