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Disney workers told to move from LA to Florida for their job sue after company abandons new development plans

Disney workers told to move from LA to Florida for their job sue after company abandons new development plans

Disney workers who were told to move from Los Angeles to Florida to work at a new campus have launched a lawsuit after the company abandoned its new development plans.

The decision to reverse the move of 2,000 workers was made after the return of CEO Bob Iger. The plans to move staffers working on theme parks and resorts to a planned office park in Lake Nona in Orlando were announced in 2021 by then-CEO Bob Chapek and the chairman of experiences at Disney Josh D’Amaro.

The move was intended to utilize Florida tax credits but it was a very unpopular decision with staff being asked to move from Southern California. Some of those employees are now suing the company because of the canceled move, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, stating that a number of employees sold their homes in Los Angeles and moved to Central Florida.

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The plaintiffs, Maria De La Cruz and George Fong, state they were made to think that they would lose their jobs if they didn’t agree to the move - and both agreed in November 2021. The lawsuit states that Disney told its staff affected by the relocation that they would have 90 days to decide.

A vice president of product design, De La Cruz sold her home in Altadena in May of 2022.

“Mr. Fong also sold his home, which was a particularly painful decision because it was the family home he had grown up in and inherited,” the lawsuit states.

Disney workers who were told to move from Los Angeles to Florida to work at a new campus have launched a lawsuit against the studio (Walt Disney World Resort via Get)
Disney workers who were told to move from Los Angeles to Florida to work at a new campus have launched a lawsuit against the studio (Walt Disney World Resort via Get)

Disney canceled the project a year after they had sold their homes.

The suit is seeking punitive damages and is looking to represent “all current and former California Disney employees who relocated from California to Florida as a result of Disney’s announcement of the Lake Nona Project.”

Disney was planning on saving money on its $1bn investment in the Lake Nona project in the future because of the lower worker costs in the Sunshine State. Another reason for the move was the tax credits for relocating businesses put forward by the state.

However, the company’s ensuing culture war fight with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis affected the project. The project was canceled a month after Disney filed a federal First Amendment lawsuit against the state of Florida. That legal wrangling has since found a resolution and Disney has confirmed that it will continue to expand in the state.

The cancelation of the Lake Nona project also coincided with major cost-cutting efforts at Disney.

In May 2023, Disney said in a statement, “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 noted at the time that some staff had already moved and said it would discuss options to move them back to the Los Angeles area with individual employees, but the lawsuit states that the compensation packages were not good enough.

The lawsuit also said that a number of employees refused to move but some still remained at the company. Following the reversal of the plans, home prices in Orlando fell while they have risen in Los Angeles since 2022. Higher interest rates also made the financial situation worse, according to the legal filing.

Fong has managed to buy a home in South Pasadena but it has “considerably less square footage than his previous Los Angeles home,” the lawsuit states. De La Cruz is still working on moving back to California.

The Independent has contacted Disney for comment.