back to article Ex-IT staff claim Disney fired them then gave their jobs H-1B peeps

Ex-Disney IT staffers in Florida have accused the Mickey Mouse outfit of discrimination, and now hope to sue their former bosses. The nearly two dozen techies claim they were forced to train and then hand their jobs over to foreigners working in America on H-1B visas. Attorney Sara Blackwell told The Register she has filed …

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  1. ratfox Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I hope they have proof in writing… And I hope they get $$$ from Disney.

    The H1-B program exists for a reason, but cheaters give it a bad name.

    1. elDog Silver badge

      Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

      Obviously cost is a major factor.

      We can still hire folks from outside the US with training nominally as good as or better than US folks. One reason for the training disparity is because US firms have drastically cut down on in-house training and budgets.

      Countries such as India have heavily invested in training technologists. And I believe that Microsoft (as an example) has strongly pushed this effort.

      Perhaps this was already written in the script 10-20 years ago. US firms (and probably European ones) wanted to divest themselves of the aging employees. They started tech centers off-shore and started transferring the knowledge overseas.

      Now they can tell the white-hairs to get lost. Sign this form where you agree to train your executioner or you won't even receive your pittance of a retirement.

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

        "We can still hire folks from outside the US with training nominally as good as or better than US folks."

        If you have to "train" them, how can they be "as good or better"? I've been to countless jobs were you pretty much just show up and start doing your job.

        1. elDog Silver badge

          Re: Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

          Reading comprehension and correctly stating the quote would be a first test.

          You stated: If you have to "train" them....

          That wasn't in my response. In fact my emphasis was that many people that come here with H1- B visas are better trained than their US counterparts. The off-shore companies (TATA, etc.) spend a lot of time to have their candidates well trained. It's the US employees that are increasingly lacking in training.

          1. Crazy Operations Guy

            "off-shore companies (TATA, etc.) spend a lot of time to have their candidates well trained"

            In my experience, those companies typically train their people enough to pass the certification exam then dump them on the client. Sure they have hundreds of CCNPs, but not one of them has ever configured a switch in a non-lab environment. Or, as I've been seeing more often, they train people coming from non-CS backgrounds just enough to do their narrowly defined jobs and will just SEGFAULT when presented with a problem even just barely outside their scope. Hell, I've seen mainframe admins that don't know how to plug in a keyboard to their desktop...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

            That would explain a lot about the remote Indian networking staff I have to deal with Week in - Week out.

            Last weeks network upgrades, included the guy who once remoted into a laptop to configure network comms, would leave me instructions of what he needed next after periods of inactivity (while he looked stuff up) either by Skype or Notepad & then promptly minimise them would sit back & do nothing waiting for me to complete the request that I was oblivious to.

            AC because I actually like the job (Apart from dealing with the Indian Networks & Printer teams along with the Helplessdesk who have no clue as to the size of & where I am in in relation to the rest of North America) & wish to keep it.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

            Hardly.

            I interview a bunch of H1-B candidates for roles.

            Once you get past the broken Engleesh (SIC), you end up finding that they only know enough to pass the memorized standard questions.

            Sorry, the Indian consulting companies flood the H1-B visa apps so that real techies can't get in or have a hard time.

            Why? Its all about the cheap labor.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

            Well trained my ass.

            I had one certified developer join my team. After a week I noticed that he was always IM'ing India. It turned out there was someone in India doing his job. He had no clue about the product or software development in general.

            He'd been engaged as an 'experienced' developer. What a load of crap.

            He was on the next plane home.

            The company he worked for was out the door as soon as we could get them after that.

            The quality of their work was in general very, very poor.

            We engaged some devs from Prague and things went well and were still going strong the last time I heard. This whole episode probably cost the company around £2 Million.

          5. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: Could you give us the reason and the rebuttal for why US workers are being terminated?

            @elDog

            In fact my emphasis was that many people that come here with H1- B visas are better trained than their US counterparts.

            Training != Competency, which has a far higher correlation with experience than it does training.

            I learned a whole raft of languages, then moved on to classic ASP & COM+, before retraining and working with .NET. I'm now adding in Python and Java to my skills by doing a few training courses on the train.

            The training will take a few weeks at most, after which I'll be able to build systems in Java using all the same coding techniques that produce proper systems, such as SOLID, design patterns, limiting method size & qty of parameters before refactoring etc etc Those latter skills take rather longer to master than another language syntax and framework.

            Training is cheap and quick to acquire. 20 years experience is not. Importing cheap labour or offshoring the job to cheap jurisdictions is done solely to cut cost. It's not about quality, because the quality isn't there. It's not about training, because that can be had onshore in a matter of days. It's just about cost.

    2. FreemonSandlewould

      H1-B exists for a reason? What would that be?

      I've been an engineer for a while and I have not seen any skills you cant find domestically. It was essentially set up for what it is being used for by our back stabbing politicians.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Disney will will this one.

    Sure - they did it, they are guilty as hell but this is Florida and as a worker you don't have much recourse when they decide that you are no longer needed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disney will win this one.

      EXCEPT, if they break Federal Labor Laws.... The Feds are nothing to trifle with regardless of which state the complaint is lodged in. Federal Law supersedes State law.

      1. elDog Silver badge

        Re: Disney will win this one.

        Except as we get ready to pass the wonderful Free Trade Agreements (Pacific and European) which will take all such disputes out of any local/federal court and put into a corporate-staffed ISDS.

        Really, say goodbye to any local judgements about corporate actions.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Disney will wiln this one.

      Strictly speaking people on H1 visas are not supposed to replace American workers -- in fact the sponsoring employer is supposed to get a labor certification to show this.

      Obviously where money, corporations and lawyers are involved its just a matter of finding the right loophole. In this case I'd guess that the incoming workers aren't employed by Disney but by a company that subcontracts to Disney. (There seems to be a bit of a scam with Indian IT companies and H1B visas where a few companies get nearly all the visas -- but that's a different story.) There will be other smoke and mirrors tricks to make it ostensibly legal. This will include the other hurdle of employing these workers on substantially less than the going rate for such workers -- again, a no-no but nothing that a suitably compensated corporate lawyer couldn't deal with.

      The only bright spot in all this is that lawyers appear to be one of the trades that's easy to automate out of existence for the most part. I can't wait to see them all using their skills to collect (non-existent) unemployment.

    3. Steven Roper

      Re: Disney will will this one.

      Of course they'll win.

      If they're big enough to repeatedly buy endless world-wide copyright-term extensions to protect their rights to the Rat, a case like this would be a minor blip in their pocket change.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this old news?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Devil

      This is old news, but I am glad to see the House of Mouse take another PR hit for abusing the H1B program to outsource Americans who already were doing the job at hand, so therefore the H1B program was inappropriate in the first place.

      In the immortal words of Bart Simpson (in faux Mickey Mouse voice) "Hi!! I'm the symbol of an evil corporation!"

      1. Dadmin

        I'm going to wait for the made-for-TV movie of the week on this one before I decide. I've seen plenty of dead wood trying to play the "I'm impossible to replace because of all the documentation I keep in my head" game and play it pretty well. And it is a game. If you're good at what you do, you can document it and share it with others because you're just going to learn more anyway. Let the newbies run your latest creation, move on to the next. If you suck and can barely come up with lucid ideas and concepts, hide it well and never try and write it down as no one cares, and really it would only be embarrassing. When you're good, you're valuable. No cheap replacements can ever threaten you, because you make the shit happen in the big boy data center. So, do fear Indian IT replacements, if you suck at IT. Perhaps being the CEO of a smoothie stand is more your cup of tea?

        And take a look at your surroundings. Companies who favor IT staff have lots of need for IT staff and lots of projects and data centers to manage. Companies who sell soda, or make dolls, or run fun parks are not going to be places for real IT wizards to shine. This is a fact. You can claim their high-tech manufacturing, or their corp web pages as places for an IT person to excel at, but you'd be wrong. Any of those things are easily parceled out to remote, cheap third parties to build/maintain/support.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Yes outsourcing crap internal IT to a cheap offshore company is fine.

          But H1B is a visa to bring special skilled overseas workers to America when you can't find locals with those skills.

          To do that and have the existing workers train their replacements in the current system would seem to present certain logical difficulties.

          1. elDog Silver badge

            No logical difficulties, just ethical ones.

            From what I've heard from friends and elsewhere, the current employees are offered an offer that's hard to refuse, unless you are extremely principled and have some financial cushioning.

            If you stay around for N months and train your replacement you'll receive a severance package. If you don't agree, then you will be terminated immediately - any law-required benefits and pay will be made but don't expect a good-bye party.

        2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

          Companies who (...) run fun parks are not going to be places for real IT wizards to shine.

          Sure, if you're talking about some guy in a greasy mac running the Wonderwheel, you're right. But do you have any idea how many (and, simply, HOW) computers are used @ Disney? "Haunted Mansion", as a simple example, has a computer-controlled "drop" that is randomized for start time in the narration, amount of shake, duration, etc., so that it's impossible for someone who has ridden before to anticipate. Also, at least a part of Disney Animation -- which is largely CG -- used to be in Florida, and I assume that it still is. So you're talking rendering, storing, and accessing some pretty big data files. Their data center is critical to Disney's operations.

        3. LucreLout Silver badge

          @Dadmin

          If you're good at what you do, you can document it and share it with others because you're just going to learn more anyway.

          I agree - this is how I operate.

          When you're good, you're valuable. No cheap replacements can ever threaten you, because you make the shit happen in the big boy data center. So, do fear Indian IT replacements, if you suck at IT.

          Unfortunately this is wishful thinking on your part, but allow me to explain why.

          In the bank I work for, I sit 6 people deep in the hierarchy. After me all the way up to the CEO, there is nobody that understands coding, at all. Nobody is qualified to determine who is good and who is not - it becomes purely a numbers game.

          Now my boss, he knows I'm good because the rest of the team tell him that, but he doesn't decide who gets cut - his boss does, and it's done on a cost basis rather than competency - the assumption is that there is no key person risk.

        4. Triggerfish

          Companies who sell soda, or make dolls, or run fun parks are not going to be places for real IT wizards to shine.

          Not neccessarily Walmarts IT structure for example is vast, and they have some pretty good techs working there.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        At least they made them redundant and didn't try to behead them by forcing them onto thunder mountain eh?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > House of Mouse

        Or "Mauswitz" and "Duckau" as the employees call 'em...

      4. zen1

        But seriously,

        how much could Disney have saved by RIF'ing American workers and replacing them with Visa holders? Unless they're contractors it has to be less than a half mil, which is the proverbial microscopic drop in the Disney accounting bucket. Once again, this is nothing more than a clear case of yet another American corporation selling out, simply for the short term.

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

          @AC - "Or "Mauswitz" and "Duckau" as the employees call 'em..."

          I call Godwin.

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Meh

            I call Godwin.

            Godwin's not here, man.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Stop trying to impose your laws on this thread, Facist!

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Anonymous coward

      No, perhaps you're thinking of other complaints from non-IT staff earlier this year?

      The IT bods were let go in January, complaints are being filed to the commission, the deadline is almost up, and then we wait to see what happens.

      C.

  4. Erik4872

    Good effort, but they'll never win

    I've been following this, mainly because I feel it's a good lesson for techies to learn -- even the most well-heeled company in the world does not consider IT strategic. This is a place that probably needs a fleet of armored trucks to collect the cash generated every day and take it to their bank, yet they don't want to pay full time employees to run the IT department. They will never win; even if they can prove discrimination, Disney's lawyers will have them tied up in court until they run out of money and give up.

    The issue here is that Disney did this the nice legal way -- they outsourced to (I think) TCS, and TCS is the one using the H-1Bs to lower the labor costs and thus increase profit margin on the deal. The former employees should be going after the lax H-1B regulation and holding the IT services companies responsible for misuse of the visas. If they could somehow prove that they were replacing a US, say, DBA with an Indian DBA doing the exact same job, that would be a precedent setting case. The case would be further bolstered if they could prove that "training your replacement" meant teaching them how to do the job, rather than "here's how we do things in this particular environment." That would indicate that the H-1B wasn't being used for an exceptional skill set as these IT services firms like to claim.

    I say it's time for a proper profession in IT. Rather than being a "techie union" it would be more like a lobbying group. It's time to admit that the only way to get legislation you want is to buy it, and take up a collection to do so. That would at least put IT workers on a level ground with Zuckerberg and others lobbying for cheaper labor.

  5. phil dude
    Coat

    simples...

    I was under the impression that H1B status required a "prevailing wage" clause, to make sure they were not used to undercut.

    Perhaps the solution is to put a %10 threshold on numbers in any given year, and give the worker %10 more $$ than average to provide a bit extra income tax to fund the whole deal.

    This would ensure the employer *really* wanted them more than a local.

    This would recompense the employee for being disposable (H1B is not portable).

    There is already a 30 day job posting requirement isn't there?

    Does this look reasonable?

    I've had an internal look at the whole system...

    P.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: simples...

      Easy to fiddle though.

      A common method by a certain well known Indian outsourcer is to pay more than the US wage but then claim back a big chunk as an administrative fee, or rent the workers accomodation for a premium.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: simples...

      Plenty of ways around this. We outsource to a company who has armies of indian freshies at our main sites. They are all on contracts which I am sure specify a 'prevailing' US hourly rate. However, from what I can see if they:

      - fail to work late every day and most weekends, they are soon on a plane home for failing to show commitment to keeping the client happy

      - fill in a timesheet with more than 40/hrs a week, they get put on a plane for inefficiency and poor time management

      So most of them are probably doing 60 hours a week or more, and getting paid for 40, with the hope of perhaps scoring the jackpot and getting a permie job with our company and a green card.

  6. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    H-1B nonsense

    The program is abused by many companies. One overlooked point is an H-1B visa holder can only work for the sponsoring company. Unlike citizens and permanent residents who can leave when they find another job at any time. So there are two reasons some sleazy operations like H-1B visas - lower pay and benefits coupled with legalized slavery. If the H-1B visa holder is let go they can not get another job in the US.

    1. Number6

      Re: H-1B nonsense

      That's not true, an H1B is transferable once you've got it. The L1 internal company transfer is the real slave labour potential, it is flexible in that it allows you to work in the US with less hoops to jump through than an H1B, but it is not transferable - get fired and get out.

      The catch for an H1B is that the employees probably signed a bit of paper promising to pay back exorbitant fees to the sponsoring company if they quit too soon. At some level this is OK - if a company invests money in you it wants something back if you leave before it gets a return on that investment, but that assumes everything else is reasonable about the deal.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: H-1B nonsense

        H1-B is transferable but the company you are joining needs to get a new H1-B approval for you and you only have 30days after you leave the previous company before you need to leave the country - so in practice it isn't

        1. Number6

          Re: H-1B nonsense

          I know people who've changed jobs while on an H1B. I suspect there's pragmatism in there from the immigration people - provided the application is in, either they give you an extension while they process the application or it takes less than 30 days.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: H-1B nonsense

            If it's a "legit" H1-B and the first company is prepared to let you work notice while the 2nd gets the paperwork done it's probably possible.

            With these Indian on-shorers it's more a case of "work this weekend or you're fired and we will call the Feds the moment you are out of the door."

            1. Number6

              Re: H-1B nonsense

              If it's a "legit" H1-B and the first company is prepared to let you work notice while the 2nd gets the paperwork done it's probably possible.

              I'd say the way it probably works is that you talk to company 2 and agree to go work for them when the H1B approval comes through and when it does, you drop a letter on the HR desk of company 1 on the way out. I don't know if you need anything from company 1 to facilitate the transfer of an H1B, not having had to do it personally, I could be talking bollocks.

              It depends on the job level, but places I've seen ask you to give them two weeks' notice if you're quitting, and I've seen that work OK with H1B people too. Perhaps I've just been lucky with my choice of employers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: H-1B nonsense

      Have an H1-B working for me at the mo, and they make her pay for all the fees associated with renewal every two/three years. I think she told me this summer it was costing here about $3,000. They also have some clause in her contract whereby if she quits before a certain time frame she has to pay them through the nose too, which prevents us transferring the the H1-B to ourselves as neither we nor she wants to pay that get out fee... Which is a pity because she's really good at what she does and I'd be willing to hire her on directly.

      Fuckers.

  7. xyz123

    fortunately....

    At least they only made them redundant and didn't try to behead them by giving them a final trip on thunder railroad or space mountain eh?

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Alwways thought Disney was just a Mickey Mouse company !!!!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    offshoring

    at least they don't work for a company shipping IT jobs offshore as fast as they can.

  10. Someone Else Silver badge
    Mushroom

    How can you tell when an American business is lying?

    Companies have countered that in many cases there are not enough qualified American applicants for engineering and developer positions that H1-B visa holders are used to fill.

    That's a pile of stinkin' crap, and has been well more that 30 years. Now we have proof of the lie with able bodied "qualified American [workers] for engineering and developer positions" being canned in favor of quite likely less-capable foreigners.

    Gotta love Merkin business.

    Actually, no, you don't....

  11. TheProf
    Coat

    But I'm Special.

    "the dismissals included workers over the age of 40 and workers who are women, so age and gender discrimination are also being claimed in the EEOC filings."

    So the dismissals also included workers under the age of 40 and workers who are men?

    Yep, that's age and gender discrimination in my book.

    (Over 40? You young people don't know your born you don't. Eeee.)

  12. Stretch

    We all know...

    ...that work outsourced is work not done. So they weren't needed in the first place.

    If they were needed it will rapidly go to shit as these things do. Then TCS will blame the existing system and offer to rebuild it all. They will make a total hash of it but cover it up with an army of temporary workers plugging the gaps in the process. Finally they will lose the deal to an undercutting rival Indian firm and the whole lot will start again.

  13. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    typical large company

    can we outsource and save $$ - yes, then outsource

    can we screw current employees and save $$ - yes, then screw away

    can we boost our ceo pay $$ - yes, then boost $$

    1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      Re: We all know...

      "Finally they will lose the deal to an undercutting rival Indian firm and the whole lot will start again."

      Or. They'll move it all "into the cloud".

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: typical large company

      It seems to me that there will be an upsurge in socialist groups/political parties before long. There is no reason that even Worstall (now gone to a different place) could justify why those at the top of a company should earn orders of magnitude more than the people actually doing the job. The stage is set for dissatisfaction and revolt ... which will not be to the benefit of society. I wouldn't be too disappointed if some board members discovered that payback is a bitch, but the pain for everyone else would be just too much to bear.

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