IMAX Corp. is being sued by a 57-year-old former company lawyer who says she was fired in January because she is a Latina and the company wanted younger, less costly employees.
Margarita Hernandez’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Thursday and also alleges wrongful termination as well as disability discrimination and harassment. She seeks unspecified damages.
“Ms. Hernandez … believes that IMAX harassed and discriminated against her based on her national origin and race,” the suit states. “In addition, Ms. Hernandez also believes … that she was discriminated and retaliated against based on her age.”
Hernandez also believes IMAX has a pattern of terminating older workers and replacing them with younger, cheaper employees, the suit states.
An IMAX representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
IMAX is an entertainment technology 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.
Hernandez spoke no English when she immigrated to the United States at age 17 and her family had little money, but she learned English, studied hard and graduated from high school in San Diego, the suit states. She moved to Los Angeles, obtained an economics degree from Cal State Northridge and eventually obtained a law degree, according to her suit.
Hernandez was hired by 20th Century Fox’s legal department in 1999 and she later worked for 11 years as a lawyer in the legal and business affairs division of Warner Bros., the suit states. She was recruited by IMAX in April 2016 and the next year was given a vice presidential post, according to the suit.
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-distributor agreements worldwide, her suit states.
But 2017 was the year IMAX began replacing older employees with younger, less costly employees, according to the suit, which alleges IMAX has fired more than 10 employees over the age of 40 since that year.
At least one IMAX executive has commented that the company needed to get “younger,” the suit states.
While IMAX was firing employees, its business was expanding, sharply increasing Hernandez’s workload and her responsibilities, the suit states. However, she was not allowed to hire outside help without approval of her bosses even though the lawyer who held the position before her was allowed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so, the suit states.
Meanwhile, IMAX required Hernandez to hire and train junior lawyers hired primarily due to family connections and not on ability, the suit alleges.
From 2017 until her termination, Hernandez usually worked 70 to 80 hours weekly, including evenings, weekends and vacations, the suit states.
Hernandez told her direct supervisor in January 2019 that she needed to have foot surgery and requested five days off to complete her recovery, but she had to postpone the surgery until further notice because IMAX was bringing on a new executive to run the entertainment division, the suit states. Her surgery and requested time off were never approved, the suit states.
In June 2019, IMAX hired a white male lawyer to the same position as Hernandez, who was treated better than her even though he had less experience, the suit states.
Hernandez was fired Jan. 8, just weeks after taking time off to care for her ailing mother, the suit states. Management told her the company “was going in a different direction” and she was given two weeks to transition her work to other employees, according to the suit.
While working at home during her final weeks due to illness, her IMAX personal office belongings were “rifled through” and a senior operations legal executive from headquarters in Canada removed an autographed poster from her office and shipped it to herself in Canada for her husband, the suit alleges.
Hernandez also alleges she was not paid all she was owed on her final check.