Even after Leo Perrero was laid off a year ago from his technology job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. — and spent his final months there training a temporary immigrant from India to do his work — he still hoped to find a new position in the vast entertainment company.
But Mr. Perrero discovered that despite his high performance ratings, he and most of the other 250 tech workers Disney dismissed would not be rehired for at least a year, and probably never.
Now he and Dena Moore, another American laid off by Disney at that time, have filed class-action lawsuits in federal court in Tampa against Disney and two global consulting companies, HCL and Cognizant, which brought in foreign workers who replaced them. They claim the companies colluded to break the law by using temporary H-1B visas to bring in immigrant workers, knowing that Americans would be displaced from their jobs.
Ms. Moore had also trained her replacement. After she was laid off, she applied for more than 150 other jobs at Disney. She did not get one.
The lawsuits by Mr. Perrero and Ms. Moore, who each filed a separate but similar class-action complaint on Monday, represent the first time Americans have gone to federal court to sue both outsourcing companies that imported immigrants and the American company that contracted with those businesses, claiming that they collaborated intentionally to supplant Americans with H-1B workers.
A furor over the layoffs in Orlando last January brought to light many other episodes in which American workers, mainly in technology but also in accounting and administration, said they had lost jobs to foreigners on H-1B visas, and had to train replacements as a condition of their severance. The foreign workers, mostly from India, were provided by outsourcing companies, including the two named in the lawsuits, which have dominated the H-1B visa system, packing the application process to win an outsize share of the quota set by Congress of 85,000 visas each year.
The Labor Department opened investigations of the outsourcing companies — the direct employers of the temporary immigrants — at Disney and at Southern California Edison, a utility that laid off hundreds of American workers in 2014. The investigations are continuing. At least 30 former Disney workers also filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that they faced discrimination as American citizens.
The lawsuits by Mr. Perrero and Ms. Moore are based on the rules for H-1B visas, which were designed by Congress to bring foreign workers with special skills into the country. Employers are required to declare to the Department of Labor that hiring foreigners on the visas “will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.”
“Was I negatively affected?” Ms. Moore asked. “Yeah, I was. I lost my job.”
HCL and Cognizant have said that they carefully comply with United States laws. Cognizant has said that it employs many thousands of Americans in this country, with H-1B workers only a minority of its labor force.
Responding to the frustration of American workers, Congress in December renewed and increased a fee on outsourcing companies that it had allowed to lapse. Larger companies employing many H-1B workers in the United States will pay an extra fee of $4,000 for each new H-1B visa — up from $2,000 — and another $4,000 to move an H-1B immigrant who is already in the country to a new employer…