HomeCity NewsDisney Employees Sue Company Over Failed Florida Move

Disney Employees Sue Company Over Failed Florida Move

Two Walt Disney Co. employees who sold their Southern California homes and moved to Florida when the company announced plans to relocate jobs there are suing the entertainment giant after it scrapped those plans two years later.

Maria De La Cruz and George Fong filed a proposed class-action lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. They claim Disney told them in 2021 their jobs in Glendale were moving to Florida, prompting them to sell their homes and buy new ones in the Sunshine State.

Disney announced in 2021 plans to move about 2,000 workers to a new $1 billion office complex near Orlando, citing Florida’s “business-friendly climate” and “lower cost of living with no state income tax.”

The Burbank-based entertainment company later became embroiled in battles with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, sparked by his signing of legislation restricting instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. Disney initially faced criticism for not condemning the law, leading to an apology from then-CEO Bob Chapek.

DeSantis began publicly criticizing Disney and moved to strip away self-governing privileges granted to the company’s theme park property decades ago. Disney filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis in 2023, accusing him of orchestrating a “government retaliation” campaign.

A month after filing the lawsuit, Disney announced it was canceling plans to relocate workers from California to Florida. Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products Division, cited “changing business conditions” in an email to employees.

“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 [Florida] campus,” he wrote at the time.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one. As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate. For those who have already moved, we will talk to you individually about your situation, including the possibility of moving you back,” D’Amaro added.

The lawsuit contends plaintiffs were left uncertain about their job security and faced financial challenges due to housing market changes, saying they “began to have concerns that their job security at Disney would be threatened if they did not return to California to work in Disney’s California offices.”

The suit also noted that after Disney’s announcement, housing prices in the Florida area of the planned company development “dropped significantly.”

“Meanwhile, home prices in the Los Angeles, California, area had increased significantly between the summer of 2022 and the summer of 2023,” the lawsuit states. “Mortgage rates had also increased significantly, making it impossible for plaintiffs and other similarly situated individuals to obtain housing comparable to the homes they had sold in connection with the transfer of their roles to [Florida].”

Fong eventually returned to California, and discussed financial terms with Disney, but he was “extremely disappointed by Disney’s offer because it did not compensate him fairly for the damages he had suffered and would suffer.”

De La Cruz, meanwhile, is still in the process of moving back, according to the suit.

The lawsuit alleges solicitation of employee by misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, concealment and negligent misrepresentation. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

First published in the June 22 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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