Articles Posted in Discrimination – Pregnancy

Ana Fuentes Sanchez took a pregnancy disability leave of absence while working for Swissport, Inc. When she exhausted her four months of leave mandated by the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) she was still unable to return to work because of the nature of her high risk pregnancy.

Swissport terminated Ms. Sanchez after the expiration of her four month leave of absence, contending that it had provided her with all that the law required under the PDLL.

But Ms. Sanchez asked what about the other provisions of the Fair Employment & Housing Act? Doesn’t Govt. Code § 12940(m) require that an employer provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee? (Yes.) Wasn’t Ms. Sanchez – due to her high risk pregnancy – a disabled employee? (Yes.) And isn’t it true that a leave of absence is, under the law, a reasonable accommodation? (Yes, again.) And – last but not least – can’t a reasonable accommodation consist of a leave of absence greater than four months? (Yes! See Hanson v. Lucky Stores (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 215, 227 ; andWatkins v. Ameripride Services (9th Cir. 2004) 375 F.3d 821, 828-829).

The case of Veronese v. Lucasfilm, Ltd. (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 1, is replete with lessons to be learned on all fronts, especially lessons about how to navigate through the process of instructing the jury in an employment discrimination jury trial, and dealing with implicit or unspoken bias, here from a judicial panel. The lawyers representing employees must be careful not to overreach in the instructional arena, and make sure the jury instructions given accurately reflect the law. Everyone should be aware that paternalistic notions (here by an all-male appellate panel) may influence the outcome of a case, whether by jurors, lawyers, or judges.

With all that said – let’s take a look at the Veronese case. The facts are a little hard to follow, as they involve a lot of personal dialogue and soap opera-like scenarios. Ms. Veronese applied for a job with Lucasfilm, but the position had almost nothing to do with the film industry. The title was assistant to the manager of Lucas’ home, and appeared to involve a lot of household management and childcare.

The statement of facts relate a fairly lengthy set of drawn out and intricate conversations and emails throughout a terribly over-analyzed and detailed hiring process, during which Ms. Veronese finds out and announces she is pregnant with twins, the hiring manager discusses every possible feeling she has about children, pregnancy, and both sides – frankly – say and write a lot of things that are capable of multiple interpretations.