After hearing three weeks of testimony from 20 witnesses, including filmmaker George Lucas, a California jury awarded a former Lucasfilm employee more than $100,000 in damages for pregnancy discrimination. On review, the 1st District Court of Appeals found the trial court judge erred in instructing the jury and ordered a retrial. Now the plaintiff is appealing to the California Supreme Court.
The woman filed the original lawsuit in 2009 after she was hired to fill a position as assistant to Lucas’ estate manager. She never began her employment, however, claiming she was fired because of her pregnancy. Lucas’ film company denied the claim, asserting that the woman intentionally hid her pregnancy in order to take advantage of company health benefits.
After a lengthy trial, the jury reached a verdict in favor of the woman on her claims of pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination. While rejecting other claims of retaliation and failure to accommodate a disability, the jury awarded the woman $113,830 in damages as well as attorney’s fees. The lower appellate court overturned the verdict. Attorneys for the woman claim that the decision conflicts with existing law and will undermine the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. The state supreme court has 60 days to accept the appeal.
It is against California and federal law to discriminate against an employee based on pregnancy. A woman who suffers a negative employment action after she discloses her pregnancy or after she requests to take maternity leave may have a claim for pregnancy discrimination. A woman in this situation is advised to consult with an experienced workplace discrimination attorney. The attorney may review the situation for evidence of unlawful discrimination and assist with filing a claim.
Source: MercuryNews.com, “Lucasfilm pregnancy discrimination case appealed to state Supreme Court,” Gary Klien, Jan. 21, 2013