A 57-year-old former company lawyer is suing IMAX Corp. alleging that she was fired back in January because she is Latina and the company wanted younger employees whom they could pay less. According to an NBC news report, Margarita Hernandez's discrimination lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and alleges wrongful termination as well as disability discrimination and harassment. She is seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit states that Hernandez believes IMAX discriminated against her because of her national origin and race as well as due to her age. She also alleges in the lawsuit that IMAX has a pattern of letting older workers go and replacing them with younger, cheaper employees. IMAX is an entertainment technology company, which has offices in both Los Angeles and New York.
Allegations of Discrimination
According to the lawsuit, Hernandez did not speak English when she immigrated to the United States when she was 17. She learned English, worked hard, graduated high school and obtained degrees in economics and law, she said, adding that she later worked in the legal and business affairs divisions for major studios. The lawsuit states that in 2017, IMAX began replacing older employees with younger, less expensive employees and that the company has fired more than 10 employees over the age of 40 since that year.
The suit also says at least one IMAX executive has commented that the company needed to get "younger." As IMAX was firing employees its business was expanding, significantly increasing Hernandez's workload and responsibilities. But, she says, she was not allowed to hire outside help without her bosses' approval.
Meanwhile, the company required Hernandez to hire and train junior lawyers who the lawsuit says were hired based on family connections and not their abilities. In June 2019, IMAX hired a white male lawyer to the same position as Hernandez, the lawsuit says. She was fired Jan. 8 just weeks after taking time off to care for her mother. Hernandez also alleges she was not paid all she was owed on her final check.
Wrongful Termination Checklist
There are federal and state employee rights laws, which protect employees from being fired or otherwise discriminated against due to their age, race, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. Here is a checklist of situations where you may have a valid claim for wrongful termination on the basis of discrimination:
- Is there direct evidence that you were fired for discriminatory reasons? Such evidence may include direct statements from your employers including via email, company memos, voicemails, instant messages, etc.
- Is there circumstantial evidence that your company has been engaging in discriminatory behavior? For example, if your company has recently been laying off older employees and hiring younger, cheaper employees, that may be evidence that they are deliberately replacing older employees with younger workers, which is illegal.
- Are employees with similar job descriptions and experience treated differently based on their individual characteristics such as gender, age, race or disability? Such behavior is discriminatory and illegal.
- Did an employer, supervisor or manager make comments that would indicate that they are prejudiced against a certain group of people? In some cases, such behavior could be considered harassment and may contribute to a hostile work environment.
- Is preferential treatment given to one group over another? This could also be considered discrimination.
Justice for Employees
Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit can help wronged employees receive back pay, front pay, lost benefits (healthcare coverage, pension, retirement benefits, etc.), damages for emotional distress, attorney's fees and even punitive damages, which are meant to penalize the employer for their discriminatory behavior.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated because of discrimination in the workplace, you may be entitled to these damages and more. Call the experienced Los Angeles racial discrimination attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley to find out how we can help you get justice and fair compensation for your losses.