IMAX Corp. is being sued by a 57-year-old former attorney for the company who claims she was fired in January for being Latina and for seeking younger, lower-cost employees.
Margarita Hernandez's lawsuit in the Los Angeles Supreme Court was filed Thursday, also alleging wrongful dismissal, as well as discrimination and harassment based on a disability. She looks for unspecified damage.
"Ms. Hernandez … believes that IMAX harassed and discriminated against her because of her national origin and race," the lawsuit reads. "In addition, Ms. Hernandez also believes that she was discriminated against and rejected because of her age."
Hernandez also believes IMAX has the pattern of firing older workers and replacing them with younger, cheaper workers, the lawsuit says.
An IMAX representative could not be reached immediately for comment. IMAX is an entertainment technology company with US offices in Los Angeles and New York. The company specializes in the display of films on large screens in a high resolution format and has more than 1,600 cinemas in 81 countries.
Hernandez didn't speak English when she immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 and her family was low on money, but she learned English, studied hard, and graduated from high school in San Diego, the lawsuit says. She moved to Los Angeles, graduated from Cal State Northridge with an economics degree, and eventually earned a law degree, depending on the lawsuit.
Hernandez was hired by the legal department of 20th Century Fox in 1999 and later served 11 years as an attorney in the legal and business department of Warner Bros., the lawsuit states. She was recruited by IMAX in April 2016 and received a vice presidential post the next year depending on the lawsuit.
Hernandez handled distribution agreements for the major studios including Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, Fox and Paramount. local language distribution agreements for China, Russia, India and Japan; and sub-distribution agreements worldwide, it says in their lawsuit.
However, 2017 was the year IMAX began replacing older employees with younger, more affordable employees. This emerges from the lawsuit alleging that IMAX has laid off more than 10 employees for over 40 years since that year.
At least one IMAX manager has commented that the company needs to get "younger," the lawsuit said.
While IMAX laid off employees, the business expanded and significantly increased Hernandez's workload and responsibility, the lawsuit states.
However, she was not allowed to hire outside help without the approval of her superiors, despite the fact that the attorney who held the position before her was allowed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, the lawsuit said.
Meanwhile, IMAX urged Hernandez to hire and train junior lawyers who were hired primarily because of family relationships rather than skills.
From 2017 until she was fired, Hernandez typically worked 70 to 80 hours a week, including evenings, weekends, and holidays, the lawsuit said.
Hernandez told her line manager in January 2019 that she would have to undergo foot surgery and requested a five-day break to complete her recovery. She had to postpone the operation until further notice, however, as IMAX added a new executive to run the entertainment department, which states the suit. Her surgery and requested time off were never approved, the lawsuit said.
In June 2019, IMAX hired a white attorney in the same position as Hernandez, who was treated better than them despite having less experience, the lawsuit said.
Hernandez was released on January 8, just weeks after taking time off to take care of her ailing mother. Management informed her that the company was "going in a different direction" and that she had two weeks to transfer her work to other employees depending on the complaint.
While she has been working at home for the past few weeks due to illness, her personal effects have been "ransacked" at the IMAX office, and a corporate law officer at Headquarters in Canada removed a signed poster from her office and mailed it to her in Canada. claims the suit.
Hernandez also claims that she was not paid for everything she owed for her last check.