A former IMAX executive is suing the company for disability discrimination, alleging he was fired earlier this year after telling management he was having surgery for tumors on his thyroid that he feared could be malignant.
Alfred Chak’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleges the 44-year-old plaintiff was the victim of age discrimination and harassment. He seeks unspecified damages in the complaint filed Wednesday.
An IMAX representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
IMAX is an entertainment tecchnology company with U.S. offices in Los Angeles and New York. The company specializes in showing movies on large screens in a high-resolution format and has more than 1,600 theaters in 81 countries, according to the suit.
Chak was hired as executive vice president of IMAX’s Entertainment Division and senior vice president of IMAX Corp. in July 2017, according to his court papers. Before joining IMAX, Chak says he accumulated nearly 20 years experience in the finance and entertainment industry.
When he moved to California in 2010, Chak, who holds an MBA, worked as an executive at Disney, Electronic Arts and Deluxe Entertainment. He was recruited to IMAX and was touted as part of its next generation of leaders, according to the suit, which says he was responsible for managing the financial and operational performance of the company and received annual salary increases and bonuses.
Last September, Chak says he had a physical and his doctor found two tumors on his thyroid. Tests showed there was a “high probability” that one of the tumors was malignant, and immediate surgery was recommended because it was unclear whether the tumor was cancerous, the suit states.
“Mr. Chak was absolutely terrified at the news,” according to the complaint. “He was afraid that the tumor was cancerous … and that it had spread to other parts of his body, requiring debilitating radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.”
Because many of the developments were taking place during the holiday season, Chak decided to email his bosses at IMAX about his medical condition in January, the suit states.
During a subsequent discussion with one of his supervisors, she said that it was “probably a good time” to discuss the elimination of his role at the company and that it would give him a “perfect opportunity” to recover from the surgery without the stresses of work, the suit states.
The boss told Chak his position was being eliminated and that finance operations would be managed solely from IMAX’s New York location and that he needed be out of his office by the end of the week, according to the suit.
A human resources manager later told Chak the time for him to leave could be extended to April if he signed a full release of any employment claims, the suit alleges. He refused and was then told his last day would be March 16, the same day that a national emergency was declared because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to his court papers.
Chak believes management knew about his medical condition before he revealed it to them, in part by going through his personnel file, which showed his medical appointments, the suit states.
Chak alleges his firing was “part of a pattern and practice of terminating older employees in favor of younger employees.” More than 10 employees over the age of 40 were replaced with younger employees who were making less money, according to the suit.
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