Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lucasfilm Faces New Regarding Pregnancy Discrimination

                                                          Artist Luis Pages with VFX
The company lost a 2010 lawsuit – and now faces a new allegation that its Singapore subsidiary abruptly terminated an employee without explanation after the company’s “Full Medical Coverage Insurance” failed to cover the worker’s wife’s pregnancy.

VFX artist Luis Pages says Lucasfilm Singapore promised inaccurately that he’d have broad medical insurance if he relocated to Singapore for a job with the company – but then fired him without explanation after his wife’s pregnancy turned medically difficult, and withheld salary, leaving him $41,000 worse off.

The Lucasfilm spokesman declined to comment on personnel matters, except to say that “there’s more to the story” than Pages’ account, which first appeared on the VFX Soldier blog. That account (which Pages confirmed), and an interview with Pages, form the basis for this article.

Pages – a 10-year veteran of the industry who specializes in particle system effects such as water and fire – was working in London when Lucasfilm Singapore beckoned with a job. Accustomed like many computer effects artists to traveling the world for employment – he’s also worked in Sydney, Wellington, Adelaide and New York – Pages signed on to a two-year contract and relocated in May to begin work on the Warner Bros. tentpole Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Pages’ other credits include Avatar, Tintin and one of the Harry Potter films.

Included in the Lucasfilm offer, said Pages, was what the company referred to as “Full Medical Coverage Insurance” for him and his wife Anastasia. He took the job and they relocated.

Several weeks later, Anastasia became pregnant. Doctor visits revealed that she had Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare connective-tissue disease that can lead to high-risk pregnancy and other symptoms. On his way out of the doctor’s office, when Pages proffered his insurance card, he said he discovered that “Full Medical Coverage” didn’t include pregnancy – a fact that Pages said Lucasfilm never mentioned. Now that his wife was pregnant, he no longer had the option to obtain a supplemental policy covering pregnancy.

“I didn’t even get a chance to get my own policy,” Pages told THR. As a result, he has amassed about U.S. $8,000 in self-paid medical expenses. His wife spent a portion of the pregnancy comparison shopping for the least expensive medical care.

Ironically, the vulnerability of entertainment workers relocated far from home is an issue that high-tech VFX artists have in common with members of one of the most low-tech entertainment unions, Actors Equity, which represents performers in live stage work. Among the concerns that motivated Equity’s formation was the 19th-century experience of “companies (of actors) stranded on the road.”

Pages said he’s not going public because of money and is not planning to sue. His reason for speaking out: “I’m tired of hearing stories like this and no one says anything (publicly).”

IATSE, through its Local 839 – the Animation Guild – has been trying to unionize VFX artists, but finding it a difficult battle in a globally dispersed, highly mobile industry sector. Pages says he supports the effort “110 percent.”

Pages wishes George Lucas well, but adds, “I’d never imagined that (Lucasfilm subsidiary) ILM would be the company that would make me want to quit the business.”

Read More: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lucasfilm-faces-new-pregnancy-discrimination-386863

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