A pregnancy discrimination suit against Star Wars director George Lucas’s Lucasfilm, Ltd. is raising a lot of questions about what constitutes pregnancy discrimination in the work place and offering onlookers a fascinating peek into the stressful and chaotic atmosphere at the Lucas estate.
Julie Gilman Veronese claims she was wrongfully terminated by Lucas’s estate manager Sarita Patel because of her pregnancy. Patel hired Veronese — a local socialite — for a 30-day trial period as an assistant that Veronese claims she was told would lead to permanent work. But just before her first day of work, Veronese called to say she was pregnant with twins and was too sick to work. After that, Patel refused give her a new start date.
In emails exchanged with other staff, Patel expressed concern about Veronese’s ability to handle the stress. This is where we learn a few things about George Lucas: He has cranky neighbors. He’s constantly redoing his house. And his assistants get paid $75,000 a year to bring him sandwiches and clean up after his dogs. Even before she was concerned about her pregnancy, Patel thought that Veronese might be too “high society” to do the job.
Weeks later, Veronese miscarried one of her twins. Patel and other staffers were concerned about Veronese’s ability to juggle her grief, her pregnancy, and the difficult job, but the HR director eventually told Patel that the pregnancy was none of her business. Still, Patel shortened the contract to just three weeks, and when Veronese complained, she was fired immediately — a decision that even Veronese says she agreed with.
Veronese is suing Lucasfilm, Ltd for $677,000 and an unspecified amount in emotional distress. George Lucas testified briefly today, saying that he never new Veronese or anything about her employment. “I don’t get involved in temporary help,” he said.
Patel reportedly broke down in court, saying that she was worried that the enormous stress of the chaotic household would have a negative impact on Veronese and her pregnancy.
We’ll fill you in as this unfolds, but what do you make of this suit so far?
Photo: brunkfordbraun, Flickr