12:29pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Fired Rhythm & Hues Workers Sue Over Terminations Without Notice
Anthony Barcelo, one of the 250 individuals laid off from Hollywood visual effects company Rhythm & Hues this week, has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging labor violations.
In a complaint filed in Los Angeles bankruptcy court on behalf of himself and those similarly situated, Barcelo alleges that mass layoffs happened Feb. 11 without proper notice and constituted a violation of both federal law and California Labor Code.
Los Angeles-based Rhythm & Hues filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday and appeared before a judge Friday. The company, which is up for an Academy Award for creating the CG Bengal tiger in Life of Pi, is seeking approval for $17 million in loans from Universal and Fox to continue working on various films. The VFX house also has made an emergency motion so that a judge might approve executory contracts.
The Barcelo complaint cites the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act as requiring 60 days written notice for those terminated without cause as the result of mass layoffs or plant closings.
The workers were employed at the company's facility in El Segundo, Calif. Barcelo was a digital compositor on films including The Hunger Games, Green Lantern and Clash of the Titans. He also was involved in the postproduction of the upcoming film Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.
According to R&H's own bankruptcy papers, the company employed 700 individuals there up until recently and only 460 remain. (It also employs others in facilities in India, Canada and Taiwan.)
The move was made to ensure that the fired workers gain priority status for their claims. The plaintiffs are seeking their unpaid wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued vacation and holiday pay, pension and 401(k) contributions.
Separately, R&H filed an emergency motion Friday so that a judge might approve its honoring of pre-petition wages, commissions and benefits.
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