3:02pm PT by Ashley Cullins
MPA Sued for Age Discrimination by Fired Piracy Investigator
A 45-year-old piracy investigator is suing the Motion Picture Association for discrimination and retaliation after being terminated, claiming people in his department are forced out under the guise of poor performance as they approach middle age.
Guillermo Lopez on Friday sued the MPA and his former supervisor, An Hilven, for allegedly discriminating against him for his age and national origin and firing him after he complained to human resources about ongoing mistreatment.
According to his complaint, Lopez started working for the MPA in August 2002 and was a senior internet investigator when he was terminated in February 2020. He alleges that he routinely received positive performance evaluations, but things began to change when Jan van Voorn took over as head of global content protection in 2017. Shortly after, Lopez says he was informed he'd no longer be allowed to give presentations to studios, a duty he says was later given to a younger, non-Hispanic employee "with no accent," and his title was changed from special investigations manager to senior investigator.
Hilven, whom Lopez describes as "in her 30s," became his direct supervisor in August of 2019, and he alleges she was "dismissive" of him and sometimes wouldn't even acknowledge his presence. Lopez says the alleged mistreatment began in the summer of 2017 and increased "significantly" after Hilven's hiring. He claims he was burdened with an excessive amount of work, routinely required to take on his co-workers' tasks without proper training, excluded from meetings, denied training opportunities, assigned janitorial duties and belittled and insulted.
After Lopez complained to human resources in November 2019, he says the environment became "even more hostile." He received a termination letter in February 2020, allegedly for poor performance.
"Plaintiff was the most senior and most experienced investigator at the time, as well as the oldest individual working as a Senior Investigator," writes attorney Jeffrey McIntyre in the complaint, noting that a January 2019 performance review referred to Lopez as a trusted member of the team who had shown great leadership. "Plaintiff had also checked [Salesforce] a week prior to his termination and at that time he had completed more internet investigations than all the newer and younger employees, indicating that plaintiff was performing better than the younger individuals that were not terminated."
Lopez alleges that he was replaced by "a much younger and less qualified, non-Hispanic individual" and notes that when he was terminated the rest of the investigators were in their mid-20s to early 30s. He alleges that for the past several years it's become practice to label an employee as a "poor performer" and terminate them as they approach their mid-40s or 50s. He's seeking a declaration that the conduct was unlawful as well as unspecified general, compensatory and punitive damages.
The MPA had no comment.