Pregnancy Discrimination Case Against Lucasfilm Has Pre-Trial Settlement
A high-profile, bitterly fought pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed more than four years ago by Julie Veronese against Lucasfilm Ltd. was recently dismissed following a settlement between the parties.
In April 2008 Veronese, then 36, applied to become an assistant manager to Sarita Patel, the estate manager at the San Anselmo estate of “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas.
Veronese was hired but never started work, claiming she was terminated because she became pregnant. She had signed a contract for a 30-day position to start two months later, but alleges she was told it was a probationary period for a permanent $75,000-a-year job.
Three days before she was to start work, Veronese told Patel that she was pregnant. Allegedly Patel put the job on hold and repeatedly delayed Veronese’s starting date. The day after Veronese sent an e-mail to Patel claiming she was being mistreated because of her pregnancy Lucasfilm withdrew the job.
Lucasfilm Originally Denied the Discrimination Charge
Lucasfilm denied the discrimination charge, saying it revoked its offer for reasons unrelated to her pregnancy. Defense witnesses said Patel, who had supervised other pregnant employees, had decided to revoke the offer after she had received the accusatory e-mail. They alleged that Patel felt the email showed Veronese to be self-centered, disrespectful and dishonest.
Veronese was represented by Angela Alioto, an employment rights lawyer, a former San Francisco supervisor, and her mother-in-law.
After 2 1/2 days of deliberations the Superior Court sided with Veronese. Jurors also agreed Veronese had been assured of an ongoing position after a 30-day tryout.
Jurors were shown an e-mail that Lucas’ executive assistant sent to Patel on the day the company learned Veronese was pregnant that expressed concern about whether she would be able to do the job while pregnant.
Lucasfilm Attorneys Allege Veronese Lied Under Oath
Attorneys also allege Veronese lied under oath about the date she learned of her pregnancy – nearly a month before she had disclosed it to Patel. Alioto’s counterargument was that Veronese had no legal obligation to tell the company of the pregnancy.
Lucas testified June 17 that he had not been involved in the decision to hire or withdraw Veronese’s job offer.
The jury awarded $113,800 in damages – $93,800 for lost wages and $20,000 for emotional distress, and rejected a request for punitive damages.
“Women who are pregnant are so discriminated against, and nobody talks about it,” Alioto said.
Lucasfilm said it would appeal.
“I thought I had found a place where I fit in,” Veronese said, now 37. “The minute I told them I was pregnant, I just watched it crumble.”
Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation