A seasoned assistant film editor has filed a complaint of harassment, gender discrimination and wrongful termination against Walt Disney Pictures and Muppets movie editor James Thomas. “Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff, created a hostile work environment and treated Plaintiff differently because she was an Asian woman over age 40, and terminated Plaintiff’s employment because of her gender, race and family responsibilities and because she made good faith complaints and opposed Defendants’ unlawful conduct,” says the complaint (read it here) filed by Cecilia Hyoun’s lawyer on June 3 in LA Superior Court. “Defendants also falsely claimed that Plaintiff’s position was being eliminated, whereas in truth and in fact a subordinate male employee with vastly less experience than Plaintiff was promoted to her position,” adds the complaint of her June 1, 2011, dismissal from The Muppets. Hyoun is seeking compensatory damages to be determined by the court in a jury trial for her lost wages, sick pay, and vacation pay. Hyoun started work on The Muppets in the fall of 2010 and claims she even turned down another job at Paramount because she expected to be working on the film until November of 2011. Claiming that Thomas made negative comments about her race, the postproduction vet is also seeking punitive damages and mental and emotional distress damages as well as interest and legal costs and “other and further relief as the court deems just and proper”. The dense seven claim filing against Disney, Thomas and DMP Productions also says that Hyoun previously had brought the issue to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Hyoun says she received a right-to-sue letter from the state agency after they investigated the matter. The experienced assistant editor notes in her complaint that she has not landed a full-time gig and gets calls for work far less often since being let go from The Muppets several months before she was led to believe her job would end. At the same time, she appears to be under no illusions of the consequences of her legal action. “Like many, many people in the motion picture industry, Plaintiff is fearful of being blackballed for standing up to a major studio over its discriminatory practices,” notes the complaint.
The 2011 Muppets movie was not actually the first time Hyoun had worked with Thomas. The plaintiff was the first assistant editor on 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine, where Thomas was one of the two editors. During her 16 years in the industry, Hyoun also has worked as a first assistant editor on the Cameron Crowe-directed Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky as well as on 8 Mile, Charlotte’s Web and other films. Despite that experience, the complaint filed this week says that on The Muppets, Thomas perpetuated “severe and pervasive harassment” against Hyoun as well as made “derogatory comments” about other women involved in the postproduction process. The plaintiff also claims that the editor told the single mom that she needed to choose between her career and her family. “On information and belief he did not interrogate male employees this way,” claims the complaint.
Hyoun is represented by Carol Gillam of LA’s The Gillam Law Firm.