LOS ANGELES (CNS) – IMAX Corp. and a former company lawyer who alleged she was fired in 2020 because she is a Latina who was in her late 50s have tentatively settled the plaintiff’s lawsuit.
A lawyer for plaintiff Margarita Hernandez filed court papers on June 27 with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern stating that there was a “conditional” agreement to resolve the case. No terms were resolved.
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. In their court papers, IMAX lawyers stated that Hernandez, then 57, was terminated in January 2020 for “performance-related reasons.”
The lawsuit, filed in September 2020, additionally alleged wrongful termination, disability discrimination and harassment.
Hernandez believes IMAX has a pattern of terminating older workers and replacing them with younger, cheaper employees, the suit stated.
Hernandez spoke no English when she immigrated to the United States at age 17 and her family had little money, but she learned English and graduated from high school in San Diego, the suit stated. She moved to Los Angeles, obtained an economics degree from Cal State Northridge and eventually earned a law degree, according to her suit.
Hernandez was hired by 20th Century Fox’s legal department in 1999 and later worked for 11 years as a lawyer in the legal and business affairs division of Warner Bros., the suit stated. 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 stated.
But in 2017, IMAX began replacing older employees with younger, less costly ones, according to the suit, which alleged IMAX had 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 alleged.
While IMAX was firing employees, its business was expanding, sharply increasing Hernandez’ workload and her responsibilities, the suit stated. 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 stated
Meanwhile, IMAX required Hernandez to hire and train junior lawyers hired primarily due to family connections and not on ability, the suit alleged. From 2017 until her termination, Hernandez usually worked 70 to 80 hours weekly, including evenings, weekends and vacations, the suit stated.
In June 2019, IMAX hired a white male lawyer to the same position as Hernandez who had less experience, yet was treated better than her, the suit stated.
Hernandez was fired just weeks after taking time off to care for her ailing mother, the suit stated. 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 due to illness during her final weeks of employment, Hernandez’s personal office belongings were “rifled through,” according to the suit, which further alleged she was not fully paid with her final check.