Financially damaging | Employees sue Disney claiming they were made to relocate across the US for a subsequently cancelled project

Employees sue Disney claiming they were made to relocate across the US for a subsequently cancelled project

The Walt Disney Company has been sued by two workers who say the company made them relocate from California to Florida for a project that was subsequently canceled.

According to the two employees, they were then asked to move back to California, in a back and forth which they say was financially and emotionally damaging.

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced in 2021 that 2,000 roles would be moved from California to Florida, only for current CEO Bob Iger to cancel the project in May 2023.

Due to a legal dispute with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Iger scrapped the project, including a $1billion office site in Lake Nona, Florida.

The plaintiffs argue they were told by Disney in July 2021 that “employees who declined relocation would lose their jobs.”

Maria De La Cruz, a Vice President of Product Design, and George Fong, a Creative Director, say they both sold their homes in Southern California and purchased property in Florida.

Fong, per the lawsuit, says he was forced into selling a childhood home that he inherited from family.

Following the cancellation of the project in Florida, Fong and De La Cruz say they were concerned about remaining on the East Coast, and decided to move back to California due to fears over job security.

De La Cruz, according to the suit, emailed HR to raise her concerns. “After all of this, will there be any security in our positions?” she wrote. “My fear would be that we decide to stay in Florida, only to be laid off in the next year or so. I don’t want to be punished for being put into a situation my company put me in.”

When trying to sell their homes in Florida, the complaint claims that house prices in Lake Nona had dropped since De La Cruz and Fong purchased their property, and house prices and mortgage rates in California had shot up. Fong says he could only afford a smaller property in California.

De La Cruz and Fong argue that Disney misrepresented the plans for the project in Florida.

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Disney released a statement in 2023, saying: “Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward with construction of the campus.”

The company said it would liaise with employees to discuss plans for moving them back to California, but the lawsuit alleges that the compensation packages it offered to employees who had already relocated were insufficient.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages, though the amount is not specified and the complaint is yet to be processed by the Superior Court of Los Angeles, where it was filed.

Jason Lohr, the attorney representing the Disney employees, told CNN: “Ms. De La Cruz, Mr. Fong and many others dutifully moved to Florida because they love their jobs, they love the people they work with, and they love Disney.”

Disney did not reply to a request for comment from CNN.

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