Veronese v. Lucasfilm Ltd.
The Court’s failure in properly providing jury instructions regarding the business judgement, effect of employer’s concern over the fetus, failure to prevent discrimination, and failing to distinguish between wrongful termination of a temporary position and to hire into permanent position, constituted prejudice.
The facts of this case essentially involve plaintiff, a well known individual with political connections seeking employment with a large film-making company for the position of house manager, wherein the employer had a number of reservations regarding the hiring of such high profile individual for a position that largely required significant family caretaking and performance of menial tasks. The employer as such offered the plaintiff the position on a temporary basis for thirty days including the execution of a contract date, wherein such employment would terminate after thirty days. Prior to the commencement of plaintiff’s start date, she informed employer of her pregnancy with twins and would not be able to commence employment at the scheduled start date because of various issues with severe nausea and other pregnancy related issues, wherein the employer expressed concerns that such employment including stress and hazards could be detrimental to plaintiff’s health or the health of the fetuses. At a subsequent time, plaintiff suffered a miscarriage of one of the fetuses and as a result, the start date for employment was pushed back by another month and the employment trial period was reduced to two weeks. Plaintiff sent a letter to employer expressing concerns over the changes to the scheduling and in particular, alleging that such was the result of her pregnancy. The employer responded by forwarding plaintiff on a termination letter on the basis that plaintiff’s letter had demonstrated that the employee was not service oriented, had a sense of entitlement, and was not a good fit for the company. As a result, plaintiff filed suit alleging wrongful termination, failure to promote or hire based on gender discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination.
At trial the court refused to issue a jury instruction prohibiting the jury from finding discrimination based on a belief that defendant made a wrong or unfair decision, or an error in business judgement. Additionally, the Court failed to issue any jury instruction regarding any claims for failure to prevent discrimination and any instruction distinguishing between the wrongful termination from the temporary position versus the failure to hire into the permanent position for the purposes of liability or damages calculation, and as such, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and awarded $113,830 in damages, wherein the defendant appealed.
Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals reversed, holding in pertinent part the Court’s failure in properly providing jury instructions regarding the business judgement, effect of employer’s concern over the fetus, failure to prevent discrimination, and failing to distinguish between wrongful termination of a temporary position and to hire into permanent position, constituted prejudice.
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