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Pregnancy lawsuit now in jury’s hands

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A Marin County jury will begin its first full day of deliberations today in a pregnancy-discrimination lawsuit brought against Lucasfilm Ltd. by a San Francisco woman.

Julie Gilman Veronese, daughter-in-law of San Francisco lawyer Angela Alioto, sued the famed film company last year. She claims George Lucas’ personal assistant offered her a $75,000-a-year job working in the filmmaker’s home, but refused to let her start work after learning she was pregnant.

Defense attorneys contend she was offered only a 30-day project, not a full-time job, and the decision to cancel the project was mutual.

Veronese, 37, is represented by Alioto, who is a former city supervisor and daughter of former Mayor Joseph Alioto.

Angela Alioto broke down during her closing argument Friday, tearfully imploring the jury to “stand up for civil rights” and tell the billionaire filmmaker that “mothers are important.”

Defense attorney Janine Simerly maintained that there was absolutely no pregnancy discrimination and said Veronese and her attorneys were using “discrimination law for their own personal gain.”

The closing arguments concluded a frequently emotional and occasionally combative trial in which attorneys questioned 20 witnesses, including Lucas, and dissected more than 150 e-mails and documents in an attempt to prove their case.

Alioto and her legal team relied heavily on e-mails Lucasfilm managers sent to each other in the weeks before terminating Veronese.

In one e-mail, Jane Bay, who manages Lucas’ business dealings from her Skywalker Ranch office, raised questions about whether Veronese “would be able to do this job just being pregnant [first trimester] and then going out on a three-month maternity leave.”

“I can’t help but worry about it,” Bay said in the e-mail.

In another e-mail, Sarita Patel, Lucas’ personal assistant who interviewed and hired Veronese, said she was “afraid to bring on a pregnant person.”

Throughout the three-week trial, defense attorneys contended that while Patel may have expressed concerns about hiring a pregnant assistant, it was ultimately her “nagging doubts” that Veronese was a bossy, self-centered socialite that led her to believe Veronese wasn’t right for the job.

In his testimony, Lucas said he had never heard of Veronese until she sued his company late last year.

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