Employees suing Disney after moving across the country for work, then project getting canceled

Disneyland in November 2015. Employees sue Disney after they moved across the country to Florida for a project that ended up being canceled.

Disneyland in November 2015. Employees sue Disney after they moved across the country to Florida for a project that ended up being canceled. (Paul Briden, Alamy)

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Two employees are suing the Walt Disney Company, saying the company moved their jobs from California to Florida, only for Disney to cancel the project and move them back, hurting them financially and emotionally.

They're proposing a class action, alleging there are many others in a similar situation.

In 2021, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced a move of 2,000 positions from California to Florida. But in May 2023, after CEO Bob Iger returned, the company canceled the $1 billion Lake Nona office complex amid a legal and political battle with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that has since been settled.

The plaintiffs, Maria De La Cruz and George Fong, both work for Disney's product design division. De La Cruz is vice president of product design, and Fong is a creative director, according to the complaint filed by Lohr Ripamonti LLP on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount in damages, has not yet been processed by the Superior Court of Los Angeles.

The complaint alleges that Disney misrepresented and concealed its true plans for the Lake Nona project, hurting – financially and otherwise – at least 250 employees who had made the move from California to Florida.

The complaint states employees were informed about the project to relocate 2,000 roles to Florida in July of 2021 and that Disney "made it clear that employees who declined relocation would lose their jobs."

The complaint described how De La Cruz and Fong sold their homes in Southern California and purchased homes in Central Florida. For Fong, that meant selling the childhood home that he inherited from his family.

After the Lake Nona office project was canceled, De La Cruz emailed human resources about the future for those who might choose to stay in Florida, writing: "After all of this, will there be any security in our positions? 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," the complaint says.

The complaint says De La Cruz and Fong decided to move back to California to keep their jobs, but housing prices in the Lake Nona vicinity had dropped significantly after Disney's announcement. Fong said he had trouble selling his Florida home, and when he managed to move back to California, mortgage rates and home prices had climbed so rapidly that he was only able to afford a smaller home than he previously had.

"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," attorney Jason Lohr said.

Disney has not replied to a request for comment.

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