Watch CBS News

Disney employees sue after selling LA homes for scrapped Florida jobs

CBS News Live
CBS News Los Angeles Live

Two Walt Disney Company employees who sold their homes in Southern California and relocated across the country when the company announced it was moving many jobs to a planned new campus in Florida -- only to scrap those plans two years later -- are suing the global entertainment conglomerate. 

In a proposed class-action lawsuit submitted Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court -- but still pending filing -- Maria De La Cruz and George Fong contend they were told in 2021 that their jobs with Disney in Glendale were being moved to Florida. The employees both sold their California houses and bought new homes in Florida. 

The lawsuit filed Tuesday says that the plaintiffs and other workers were left uncertain about the future of their jobs, adding 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 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 opted to return 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."

After several failed attempts, Fong eventually was able to sell the Florida home and purchased a new home in South Pasadena earlier this year, but "with significantly less square footage than his previous Los Angeles home."

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

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

Disney announced in 2021 that it planned to relocate the workers to a new $1 billion office complex it planned to build near Orlando, home to the Walt Disney World Resort. At the time, the company cited Florida's "business-friendly climate" and its "rich culture of hospitality" and "lower cost of living with no state income tax."

A short time later, however, Disney became embroiled in a series of battles with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, sparked initially with his signing of legislation in 2022 restricting instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. 

Disney came under fire from critics and some employees for failing to publicly condemn the legislation. That ultimately led to an apology issued by then-CEO Bob Chapek, and the company issued a statement in opposition to the Florida law.

Countering Disney's public criticisms, DeSantis began publicly blasting the company and started an effort to crack down on Disney's operations by stripping away self-governing privileges that were granted to the company's theme park property more than 50 years ago.

In 2023, Disney filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis, accusing him of orchestrating a "government retaliation" campaign against the company that threatened its business operations. That litigation has since been resolved.

However, a month after the lawsuit was filed, Disney announced it was scrapping plans to relocate the roughly 2,000 workers from California to Florida

Josh D'Amaro, chairman of the company's Parks, Experiences and Products Division, broke the news in an email sent to employees. D'Amaro did not mention DeSantis by name or give specifics behind the decision, citing only "changing business conditions."

"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.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Disney.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.