Friday, October 14, 2016

Judge says Disney didn’t violate visa laws in layoffs

A federal judge in Florida dealt a blow on Thursday to legal claims by American technology workers who were laid off by the Walt Disney Company and forced to train foreign replacements, dismissing lawsuits by two workers who said Disney had conspired with outsourcing companies to violate visa laws.
Leo Perrero

In a terse decision, Judge Gregory A. Presnell of the United States District Court in Orlando rejected the former workers’ arguments that Disney and the two contractors had colluded to make false statements when they applied for temporary visas, known as H-1B, for the foreign replacements.

The judge found that “none of the allegedly false statements put at issue in the complaint are adequate” to sustain the former workers’ case. The outsourcing companies that were sued with Disney were Cognizant Technology Solutions and HCL America.

The plaintiffs, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, were laid off early in 2015 from jobs with Disney in Orlando. In their final weeks on the job, they were required to show foreigners on H-1B visas, brought in by the outsourcing contractors mainly from India, how to do their work.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Jacquee Wahler, said, “As we have said all along, this lawsuit was completely baseless, and we are gratified by the decision.”

The former workers’ cases hinged on their argument that the companies had violated clauses of the visa law requiring employers to show that hiring H-1B workers “will not adversely affect the working conditions” of other workers in similar jobs. The law also requires large outsourcing companies that employ many H-1B workers to certify in some circumstances that those workers “will not displace any similarly employed U.S. worker” within six months of applying for the visa.

The outsourcing companies argued that the law would apply to them only if the American workers who were displaced by visa holders they hired had originally been their employees, not Disney’s. Judge Presnell was persuaded by that argument, although he did not entirely reject the idea that the Americans were “adversely affected” by being fired.

The decision was a broad victory for Disney and its contractors, but Judge Presnell left the former workers a small window to amend their lawsuits and to try again.

Mr. Perrero said the decision was a dismaying surprise. “This has become an effective business model in the IT industry where two companies can come together and wipe out American jobs without much fear of legal action,” he said. “I just hope that greed isn’t taking our country in the wrong direction.”

Sara Blackwell, the lawyer who represented the Disney workers, said, “I wanted to see if there was any legal avenue we could use to protect our American citizens, but it seems we can’t.”

Congress considered bills this year to amend provisions in the H-1B visa laws that tech workers say have led to thousands of layoffs, but no action was taken.

The Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, said early in his campaign that he would seek to change the law to prevent layoffs. But he has not addressed the issue recently.

By Julia Preston

Source: New York Times

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Obama aiming to change conversation around health care law he says is 'here to stay'

President Barack Obama is aiming to change the conversation around his health care law from talk about undoing it to talk of how to make it better.

Obama was headed to the Nashville, Tennessee-area on Wednesday to discuss ways to improve the Affordable Care Act, including by extending Medicaid coverage to more low-income people. Tennessee is among about 20 states that have rejected Obama's offer of billions of dollars to help pay to expand the federal-state health care program for the poor.

Most of the states are led by Republican governors and Obama has blamed political motivation for their actions.

Barack Obama
Obama wants to change the conversation after the U.S. Supreme Court last week turned away a major challenge that would have endangered the law along with health insurance for millions of Americans. In a 6-3 decision, the justices upheld federal financial aid to millions of low- and middle-income Americans to help pay for insurance premiums regardless of where they live.

Obama declared after the ruling that the law is "here to stay." He cited progress under its provisions, but said "we've still got work to do to make health care in America even better," including by helping consumers make informed choices about their medical care, increasing the use of preventive care, improving the quality of hospital care and reducing costs.

Just over 80 percent of people under age 65 had health insurance when Obama enacted the law in 2010. Since then, the share has risen to about 90 percent.

The administration would like to boost health care enrollment even further by helping the remaining uninsured get coverage. But achieving the goal largely depends on the roughly 20 states, including some heavily populated ones like Florida and Texas, which have refused the significant financial incentive to expand Medicaid.

Obama has said in recent days that convincing these holdout governors will be important.

"I'm going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens," he said last week. "We've still got states out there that, for political reasons, are not covering millions of people that they could be covering, despite the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab."

Next year is the final year that Washington will offer full federal funding to states to pay for the expansion. After 2016, the federal share will begin to gradually decline, and that will leave states with expanded Medicaid programs responsible for picking up more of the costs.

Republicans lawmakers said the Supreme Court decision doesn't change the fact that the law is flawed and should be repealed. No Republicans voted for the law in 2010.

"We will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, supports extending Medicaid coverage to 280,000 low-income state residents, but a proposal he put forward failed during a special session of the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year. The proposal was revived during the subsequent regular session, but failed to clear a state Senate committee.

Tennessee U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, is among state officials calling on state lawmakers to reconsider Haslam's plan in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

By Darlene Superville, Associated Press

Source: The StarTribune