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Florida Workers Sue Disney for Alleged Fraud Conspiracy in H-1B Visa Application Process

Two former IT workers at Walt Disney World have launched legal actions against the entertainment giant, claiming that it engaged in a pattern of civil racketeering when it and two staffing companies conspired to lie to the government in completing H-1B visa applications as part of the employer’s plan to replace some 250 American workers with H-1B visaholders, the Orlando Sentinel and New York Times reported. Disney’s plan, according to the fired workers’ attorney, amounted to “systemically abusing the immigration system.”

The H-1B visa program exists to provide an opportunity for skilled workers and students to live and work in the U.S. These workers usually work in specialty fields like engineering, science, medicine, or law. Completing the necessary paperwork associated with the H-1B process involves several forms. One of these is the ETA (Employment & Training Administration) Form 9035 & 9035E. This form was the source of the employer’s alleged misrepresentation. Subsection 2 of Section I requires employers to certify that the employer’s hiring of H-1B workers will not displace American workers and will not affect the recruitment of American workers.

Two outsourcing firms, upon which Disney relied in hiring these H-1B workers for its IT area, answered that question in the negative, but, according to the fired workers, that’s exactly what happened. The Times reported that the fired workers were forced to stay on with Disney for a final 90 days, during which time they trained their replacements. Failing to stay for these final three months allegedly meant forfeiting any severance they might otherwise receive from the employer. After the 90 days passed, a few of the laid off workers were offered other jobs at Disney, but most “would not be rehired for at least a year, and probably never.”

Two different fired workers, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, each filed a lawsuit. In each case, the alleged fraud on the displacement questions of Form 9035 & 9035E comprised the crux of the fired workers’ case. The lawyer for each of Moore and Perrero contends that the staffing firms, HCL, Inc. and Cognizant Technology Solutions, knew that the changes at Disney would displace American workers but intentionally and knowingly answered “no” anyway. “Every time they file these, they are lying and falsifying documents. Disney is aware there are these requirements, and Cognizant and HCL are lying,” attorney Sara K. Blackwell told the Sentinel. Pererro is suing Disney and HCL, while Moore’s case names Disney and Cognizant.

The workers are bringing their proposed class action under the federal civil racketeering laws. Those laws provide substantial penalties for entities caught engaging in a pattern of illegal conduct over a protracted period of time. Form 9035 & 9035E contains prohibitions against submitting false information on those documents, which violates 18 U.S.C. Section 1546. In this case, the workers alleged that each Form 9035 & 9035E that HCL and Cognizant completed for Disney’s IT area was an act in violation of Section 1546, and the staffing firms and Disney conspired to engage in this pattern of falsification on the 9035 & 9035E forms.

The layoffs and H-1B visa holder hirings led U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida last June to ask the Department of Homeland Security to investigate H-1B visas to find out “if there are abuses going on in the system,” the Sentinel reported.

There are many steps to navigating the H-1B visa process. Having experienced legal counsel on your side can help ensure that you go through the process in the wisest, most efficient, and most compliant manner possible. For wise advice and thoughtful representation regarding your H-1B visa issues, talk to the Florida immigration attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping with the visa process and are prepared to assist you too.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

Temporary Extension of EB-5 Visa Program Triggers Action in South Florida, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Nov. 4, 2015

Florida Legislator Proposes Changes to E-2 Visa Program, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, June 12, 2015

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