Visual Effects Artist Accuses Film Producer of Pregnancy Discrimination

400px-Jango_Fett.jpgA VFX artist who lost his job with Lucasfilm in Singapore has accused the company of firing him because of his wife’s difficult pregnancy. He alleges that the company terminated him when her condition worsened, and that the ordeal cost him at least $41,000. He says he does not intend to sue, but it is unclear if he could sustain a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination, at least under U.S. or New York law. His allegations offer a view of the difficulties pregnant women and their spouses can face, especially in employment situations that send them far from home.

Luis Pages is a Venezuelan-born VFX artist with a decade of experience in the film industry. His resume includes titles like Avatar and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lucasfilm’s Singapore division offered him a position that included “Full Medical Coverage Insurance,” provided he relocate to Singapore. After their move to Singapore, Pages’ wife Anastasia became pregnant. They learned that she had a rare condition known as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which can cause risky complications in pregnancies. After the diagnosis, Pages’ learned that the insurance coverage included in his deal with Lucasfilm did not include prenatal care.

Lucasfilm Singapore’s head of human resources suggested that Anastasia go to Russia, where she would have health coverage. Pages would have to remain in Singapore to fulfill his contract. They agreed, and Pages requested two weeks’ leave to take her to Russia. Lucasfilm reportedly agreed to this request, but Pages noticed after his departure that he did not receive his monthly paycheck. In response to his inquiry about the paycheck, he received an e-mail informing him that his employment with Lucasfilm had been terminated. He requested a reason and was told that, since his employment was probationary, the company was not obligated to give a reason. He believes it was because of his wife’s condition. Pages says he does not want to sue, but he wants to publicize the story for others who have had similar experiences.

Lucasfilm has recently had other issues with pregnancy discrimination. In June 2010, a jury in Marin County, California found that the company wrongfully discriminated against a female employee. The plaintiff, Julie Veronese, had sought employment as an assistant to the manager of George Lucas’ private estate in San Anselmo. She signed a thirty-day contract in anticipation of a full-time offer, but delayed her start date due to pregnancy. Lucasfilm did not give her a new start date for about two months, and she accused the company of changing the job and the job duties because of her pregnancy. Lucasfilm reportedly terminated her at that point. She filed suit in state court, and after lengthy discovery and a trial, the jury awarded her over $100,000 in damages.

In New York, laws at the city, state, and federal level prohibit employment discrimination based on pregnancy. These laws usually apply to an employee who becomes pregnant, although a spouse might have a claim that can be joined to the employee’s suit. In Pages’ case, since he was the employee, it is not clear whether he would have a claim under New York’s anti-discrimination laws (setting aside for the moment the fact that the alleged events occurred far away from New York.)

At Phillips & Associates, we work to safeguard the rights of employees and job seekers in the New York City area who have experienced pregnancy discrimination and other forms of employment discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

EEOC Issues Pregnancy Discrimination Warning to Employers Who Screen Job Applicants’ Social Media Profiles, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 19, 2012
Former Bank VP Adds Retaliation Claim to Pending New York Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 5, 2012
Pregnancy Can Still Mean Penalties at Work for Many New Yorkers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 14, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Jango Fett’ by Sam Howzit (originally posted to Flickr as Jango Fett) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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