On the heels of the recent huge news about Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, I was recently contacted by Luis Pages. He is a senior VFX professional and VES member who has worked at many top level VFX companies around the world. He sent me his story about being recently terminated by Lucasfilm Singapore shortly after tending to his pregnant wife who suffered from a medical condition.
Last May Mr. Pages relocated from London to Lucasfilm’s Singapore division, a 2-year contract which included “Full Medical Coverage Insurance” for him and his wife.
A few weeks after arriving in Singapore Mr. Pages’ wife became pregnant. After a number of doctor visits it was revealed Mrs. Pages had EDS, a medical condition which made the pregnancy very risky for his wife and unborn child. It would require that they be closely monitored by various specialists.
However, the bad news didn’t stop there. It was also revealed that Lucasfilm’s “Full Medical Coverage Insurance” did not cover pregnancy related expenses. According to Luis, the head of human resources said he was supposed to be told this major detail during his induction week — not during negotiations or before he started work.
Luis tried to find supplemental insurance coverage but due to the fact his wife was already pregnant with a high risk condition the other insurance companies refused coverage. The head of human resources at Lucasfilm Singapore suggested that he send his wife to her hometown in Russia where she would be able to get health coverage while he stayed and finish the film they were working on. She then advised him to take a few weeks off after the project was over to visit his newborn baby.
Over the course of the next few months Luis and his wife went through major anxiety trying to deal with the situation. He contacted other colleagues at the Singapore office and learned of similar medical insurance stories that revealed even some cases ending in bankruptcy. Mr. Pages had already spent several thousand dollars and could expect to pay much more given the number of specialists needed and the special risks involved during delivery.
The alternative was also very costly personally. Sending his wife away to Russia would mean not being able to care for her and miss his child’s birth. If he quit his job early he would face huge costs. Lucasfilm Singapore would withhold 6 weeks of pay to recoup relocation allowances and pay for high government taxes that kick in for short term employment.
After much deliberation, Luis decided to take the Head of HR’s advice about a month and a half ago. He purchased roundtrip tickets and requested 2 weeks off so he could take his wife to her home in Russia which Lucasfilm approved. This is where the final surprise came.
While in Russia, Luis noticed that his monthly check from Lucasfilm never showed up in his account. He contacted Lucasfilm HR and they informed him that his employment was abruptly terminated. When asked for a reason Lucasfilm management responded that because his employment was within the 6-month probation period they could terminate his employment without reason.
On top of all this, Lucasfilm is withholding his last 6 weeks of payment. He was left with nothing and his landlord in Singapore will claim his 2 month deposit. For Luis the total amount of money he has lost so far is $41,000 USD ($50,000 SGD).
This is not the first time Lucasfilm has been in trouble regarding pregnancies. In 2010 the company lost a wrongful termination lawsuit by a pregnant woman. In a separate case Lucasfilm was found to be in collusion with Pixar Animation.