10 Former Workers Sue ImaginAsian for Unpaid Wages
posted on by Egan Loo
10 employees laid off by ImaginAsian Entertainment in late 2008 have filed a class action lawsuit against the media company, alleging that they were not paid up to four months' worth of back pay. ImaginAsian Entertainment is the owner and operator of the ImaginAsianTV (iaTV) television network and the former operator of two movie theaters. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the former employees are seeking US$250,000 in unpaid wages, a figure that may grow if additional plaintiffs join the suit. Nearly all of the plaintiffs were laid off between October and December of 2008, when the company shed over 75% of its workforce.
The suit names both ImaginAsian Entertainment and three key shareholders in the company as defendants. Troy Kessler, the plantiffs' Long Island-based attorney, tells ANN that shareholders are personally responsible for employee pay under New York state and federal law. The suit was filed in February in the U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of New York.
In an earlier case, the New York City Civil Court ruled in favor of an employee who sought back wages against just the company and not its shareholders. However, the employee claims she was unable to collect on her judgement. At least two other legal proceedings against the company by former staff are currently in progress. ImaginAsian declined to comment to ANN on the cases.
One of the plaintiffs, former Vice President of Operations Tino Calabria, told the Newsday paper, "We knew the company was financially in trouble, [but] they kept dangling the promise of payment to us." Calabria claims the company owes him US$25,000.
ImaginAsian Entertainment Inc. was founded in 2004, and it launched the basic cable channel ImaginAsianTV in July of 2005. The company opened a film theater, the ImaginAsian Theater, in New York City in 2005 and a second one, the ImaginAsian Center, in Los Angeles in 2007. The iaTV network had made anime one of its focuses by carrying primetime blocks of programming from Geneon and Bandai Entertainment. It also hosted programming from Media Blasters, Tokyopop, and Central Park Media. The company also experimented with DVD-on-Demand distribution in 2007, releasing several classic anime titles from TMS Entertainment before abruptly discontinuing them in spring of 2008.
The iaTV network is televising each weekly episode of Bandai Entertainment's English-dubbed version of Sunrise's Kurokami The Animation series in the same day it airs in Japan and South Korea. Neither the New York City theater nor the Los Angeles one is still controlled by ImaginAsian, although the New York theater still retains the name.
Anime News Network's Justin Sevakis was employed by ImaginAsian Entertainment from 2004-2007. Sevakis is not a party in the lawsuits.