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Rhythm & Hues Sued by Fired Employees

Anthony Barcelo is filing suit on behalf of 250 laid-off employees, asking for unpaid wages and benefits

A fired Rhythm & Hues employee is suing the bankrupt visual-effects company for unpaid wages and benefits on behalf of the more than 250 people in California who were laid off this week.

The suit was filed in California bankruptcy court by Anthony Barcelo, who worked as a compositing technical director at the company's El Segundo, Calif. office.

He alleges that Rhythm & Hues is in violation of California and federal labor laws because it failed to provide pink-slipped workers with 60 days written notice of their impending lay-off.

"The employees were given no notice that this was coming, which would have allowed them to make a soft landing," said René S. Roupinian, an attorney for the plaintiff. "Mr. Barcelo asked for and received notices at several points that his job was secure, so he feels particularly betrayed. He is in dire financial straits, and he has a family to support."

Roupinian said that Barcelo and others did not receive their last paycheck. She claims that he is owed more than $10,000 in pay and benefits.

A spokesman for Rhythm & Hues did not respond to request from TheWrap for comment.

Until last week, Rhythm & Hues employed roughly 700 people in California and a total of 1,400 people when taking into account its branches in places like Canada and Malaysia.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection this week after it could not find a buyer. Prime Focus, an Indian-based effects company, considered acquiring the company, but according to an individual with knowledge of the negotiations, it could not secure financing in time.

Rhythm & Hues has been one of the leading visual-effects companies for more than two decades and is currently nominated for two Oscars for its work on "Life of Pi" and "Snow White and the Huntsman."

The company is asking a bankruptcy court judge in California to approve a $17 million loan from Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox. It plans to use that money to complete work on Universal's "R.I.P.D." and Fox's "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”

Roupinian said Barcelo's attorneys will next ask the court to declare the case a class action suit.

Her firm, Outten & Golden, is representing terminated employees from another high-profile effects shop the succumbed to financial problems recently, Digital Domain. After filing for bankruptcy, Digital Domain was acquired by Galloping Horse America and Reliance Mediaworks for $30.2 million last September.