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Disney Sued By 2 Workers After It Asked Them to Relocate From California to Florida to Work at a $1 Billion Campus, Which It Later Canceled At least 200 employees had already moved to Florida as part of the relocation plans. The project was scrapped in May 2023.

By Grace Dean

Key Takeaways

  • Disney asked about 2,000 workers to move from California and be based at a new campus in Florida.
  • But the $1 billion Lake Nona campus was canceled after about 200 workers had already relocated.
  • Two of the workers sued Disney and said they felt they had to return to California for job security.
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images via Business Insider
Disney in May of last year scrapped plans to build the campus.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Two Disney workers have sued the company after it asked them to relocate from California and be based at a new Florida campus — which it later canceled.

In May of last year, Disney scrapped plans to build the nearly $1 billion campus in Orlando's Lake Nona neighborhood. The company was on a cost-cutting spree after Bob Iger returned as CEO. Simultaneously, Disney and Gov. Ron DeSantis had locked horns over a Florida law that limited what public schools could teach about gender identity and sexual orientation.

About 2,000 jobs, mainly in the company's parks, experiences, and products division, were set to move from an office in Glendale, California, to the new campus, which had been in the works since 2019.

At least 200 employees had already relocated to Florida before the project was canceled, Disney's theme-parks chair, Josh D'Amaro, told employees in an internal email in 2023.

Two of these workers have now sued Disney seeking damages.

Maria De La Cruz, a vice president of product design, and George Fong, a creative director of product design, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the entertainment and theme-park giant on Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Disney told them in August 2021 that their roles would move to the Lake Nona campus and "made it clear" that they would lose their jobs if they refused to relocate, the lawsuit said. It added that the workers were given three months to make their decision.

De La Cruz and Fong told Disney in November 2021 that they would relocate to the new campus, and both sold their homes in California and bought new homes in Orlando, the lawsuit alleged. It said that in Fong's case, he had to sell the family home he'd grown up in.

In June 2022, Disney told workers that the deadline to relocate to Florida had been pushed back to 2026 because the project's completion had been delayed, the lawsuit said. After relocating to Florida, De La Cruz and Fong worked from Disney's Kissimmee campus, the lawsuit added.

But then, in May 2023, Disney told employees that the Lake Nona project was canceled. The lawsuit said they had until the end of 2023 to decide whether to remain in Florida and that if they wanted to return to Disney's California offices, they would have to relocate by the end of 2024.

The lawsuit said De La Cruz and Fong decided to return to California because they thought it was important for their job security, though De La Cruz has yet to relocate.

By this point, though, the real estate markets had changed. House prices near Lake Nona slumped after Disney canceled the project.

Meanwhile, increases in mortgage rates and house prices in Los Angeles made it "impossible" for Disney workers to buy homes in the Los Angeles area that were comparable to the homes they'd sold there just a year or two beforehand, the lawsuit said.

Fong has moved to a "significantly" smaller house, the lawsuit added.

The lawsuit accuses Disney of "solicitation of employee by misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, concealment, and negligent misrepresentation." It claims that Disney made untrue statements about the Lake Nona campus to workers to induce workers to relocate.

Disney did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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