Feds Investigate Disney, HCL America Over January Layoffs

Disney World Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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The Department of Labor is investigating Disney and a contractor it hired, after some of the hundreds of tech workers who were laid off and forced to train their foreign replacements filed formal complaints, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

In response to at least two complaints filed by former Disney tech workers alleging the January layoffs violated federal labor law, the Department of Labor has conducted phone interviews with the former workers and asked for a detailed list of information, such as employee names and typical salaries, one of the workers who filed a complaint told TheDCNF.

Disney laid off more than 200 tech workers in January, but only after forcing some of them to train their foreign replacements. Those unemployed workers were then allegedly blacklisted from gaining employment at other Disney-solicited contractors. (RELATED: Blacklist Update: Evidence Piles Up, Disney Maintains Denial)

Southern California EdisonFossil Group, and most recently Catalina Marketing have also hired outsourcing firms that rely heavily on H-1bs, and then laid off dozens or hundreds of tech workers, some of whom were expected to train their foreign replacements.

One of the complaints obtained by TheDCNF alleges HCL America, which Disney hired to indirectly replace hundreds of tech workers in January, violated federal labor law.

The H-1b visas are intended to help companies bring in high-skilled foreign workers for jobs Americans can’t fill, but some companies are reportedly using them to cut labor costs.

The former worker alleges in the complaint that HCL America paid H-1b visa holders illegally low wages, placed them at a site where American workers were laid off, and did not consult with Disney as to whether American workers had been sought for those positions, among other allegations.

DoL has asked the former worker for a list of detailed job duties, H-1b worker names, job titles Disney uses for various levels of experience, and the names and contact info of some of the displaced workers.

Neither Disney nor HCL responded to requests for comment.

A bipartisan group of senators asked the Obama administration in April to launch an investigation into Southern California Edison, but were initially refused. Shortly after TheDCNF and The New York Times reported on the Disney layoffs, however, the DoL announced it would investigate SCE.

Following that announcement, the Department of Homeland Security responded to a request from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson for a more comprehensive investigation, saying it would work with DoL on a broader investigation of the H-1b visa program.

The Department of Labor did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who are running for president, want to dramatically expand the H-1b visa program. Bush has repeatedly declined to comment on the Disney layoffs. Rubio recently broke his silence, but stopped short of calling for specific action to stop the so-called abuses of the visa program.

“Any company that violates the H-1B program at the expense of American workers should face the appropriate penalties under the law,” Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon told TheDCNF. “We unfortunately don’t have a lot of confidence in the Obama Administration’s ability to carry out this investigation, protect American workers, or enforce our immigration laws.”

“Ultimately, what’s needed is a complete, step by step overhaul of our immigration system so that our laws are enforced, our borders are secured, and employment-based immigration is driven by America’s economic needs and not an individual company’s ability to exploit the law.” (RELATED: Rubio Doubles Down On Gang Of Eight Bill)

Rubio is sponsoring a bill known as “I-squared” that would triple the cap on the number of temporary guest workers businesses could bring into the country on H-1b visas every year. The big businesses backing this bill and clamoring for more guest workers insist they can’t find enough Americans willing or able to fill certain “high-skilled” jobs.

Nelson voted with Rubio for the 2013 immigration overhaul known as the “Gang of Eight” bill, which would have more than doubled the cap on H-1b visas, and indicated in his request to DHS he supports the visa program.

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