Disney workers sue company over scrubbed plans to relocate jobs to Florida

A pair of Walt Disney Co. employees who sold their Southern California homes and relocated across the country when the company announced it was moving many jobs to a planned new campus in Florida -- only to scrub those plans two years later -- are suing the entertainment giant.

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 from California to Florida, and they both sold their homes locally and bought new homes in the Sunshine State.

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 31: A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse stands in a garden in front of Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World on May 31, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

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

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 by 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.

Chapek was fired in late 2022 and replaced by former CEO Bob Iger.

Countering Disney's public criticisms, DeSantis began publicly blasting the Burbank-based entertainment conglomerate 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.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday contends that the plaintiffs and other workers were left uncertain about the future of their jobs, 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 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 employee by misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, concealment and negligent misrepresentation. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.