SAN RAFAEL — A Marin County jury awarded $113,800 in damages against filmmaker George Lucas’ company Wednesday for withdrawing a job offer from a San Francisco woman after she disclosed that she was pregnant.
Lucasfilm Ltd. denied discriminating against Julie
Veronese, and said it revoked its offer of a 30-day job in 2008 as a manager at Lucas’ San Anselmo estate for reasons unrelated to her pregnancy.
But the Superior Court jury, after 2 1/2 days of deliberations, found that Lucasfilm had discriminated against her because she was pregnant. Jurors also agreed with Veronese that she had been assured of an ongoing position after a 30-day tryout.
The panel awarded her $93,800 for lost wages and $20,000 for emotional distress. It rejected a request for punitive damages.
“This verdict is David smacking Goliath with the biggest rock you can find,” said Veronese’s lawyer, Angela Alioto. “Women who are pregnant are so discriminated against, and nobody talks about it.”
Veronese, 37, said she was happy about the verdict but would have preferred to keep the job.
“I thought I had found a place where I fit in,” she said. “The minute I told them I was pregnant, I just watched it crumble.”
Lucasfilm said it would appeal.
“Lucasfilm is a family-friendly company committed to equal employment opportunity with a long track record of providing a supportive work environment free of discrimination,” the company said in a statement.
Veronese applied to become an assistant manager at Lucas’ personal headquarters in April 2008. She signed a contract for a 30-day position two months later, but said she was told it was a probationary period for a permanent $75,000-a-year job.
Two days later, and three days before she was to start work, Veronese told her prospective supervisor, Sarita Patel, that she was pregnant. She said Patel had put the job on hold and had repeatedly delayed her starting date until she complained by e-mail in August that she was being mistreated because of her pregnancy. Lucasfilm withdrew the job offer the next day.
Jurors were shown an e-mail that Lucas’ executive assistant sent to Patel, the day the company learned Veronese was pregnant, expressing concern about whether she would be able to do the job while pregnant.
But defense witnesses said Patel, who had supervised other pregnant employees, had decided to revoke the offer to Veronese after her accusatory e-mail in August showed her to be self-centered, disrespectful and dishonest.
Lucasfilm attorney Janine Simerly also told jurors that Veronese had lied under oath about the date she learned of her pregnancy, which was nearly a month before she disclosed it to Patel. Alioto countered that Veronese had no legal obligation to tell the company she was pregnant.
Lucas testified June 17 that he had not been involved in the decision to hire Veronese or withdraw her job offer.
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