Silenced Laid-Off Employees Growing Bold, Speaking Out

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In February of this year, Abbott Laboratories, a global health care corporation, informed 150 technology employees at the headquarters office near Chicago, that they were being replaced – their work was being turned over to a company out of India – Wipro – but before they leave, they must train their foreign replacements.

Two months later, after transferring all their knowledge and instruction to their Indian H1B visa-holder replacements, the 150 American citizen technology workers turned in their badges and computer passwords and walked away – with a severance package guaranteed to keep them silent.  

Mark Peña refused to sign it, choosing to forfeit the $10,000 severance package in exchange for the right to speak his mind about a job he had loved, and lost.    He had worked for Abbot for 12 years, and said he didn’t feel right about signing the non-disparagement clause, as it would erode his rights.

Other workers are afraid to speak out, fearful the company will retaliate and sue them.   One former manager, who had worked for Abbot for 13 years, had to take the package due to family medical expenses, said, “These visas were meant to fill gaps for resources that are hard to find.   This time the company actually asked me to transfer my knowledge to somebody else.  That changes the equation.”

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]NY Times reports that through loopholes in the rules, tens of thousands of American workers have been replaced by foreigners on H-1B visas. [/pullquote]

A New England power company, Eversource Energy, laid off about 220 people in 2014, and most were required to train their foreign replacements from India as well.  In protest, the American employees posted USA flags outside their cubicles during their final days with the company, then took them down as they left.   One employee, Craig Diangelo, finally spoke to the press, even though he had signed the non-disparagement saying, “I finally got to the point where I am tired of hiding in the shadows.”

Yet another company, EmblemHealth, a health insurer, announced on April 20, 2016 that it would transfer about 200 technology jobs to Cognizant, another outsourcing company that uses foreign workers.

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