A jury in Los Angeles recently found in favor of a former model on the television game show “The Price is Right” in her lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination. It first ordered the show’s producers to pay her close to $777,000 in damages, followed by a verdict in a second phase of the trial for $7.7 million in punitive damages. Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender, counting pregnancy discrimination as a form of gender bias. California state law contains similar prohibitions, as do New York state and city law.
Brandi Cochran, age 41, worked as a model on the daytime game show for several years before becoming pregnant. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Cochran claimed that she observed harassment by the show’s producers of other models who had become pregnant. She therefore did not initially tell her co-workers about her pregnancy, out of concern for her job. Cochran stated in her complaint that she informed a producer after several months, who said she knew because of Cochran’s weight gain. At that point, according to Cochran, another producer began to marginalize her, telling her that she might have been fired had she not withheld information about her pregnancy.
After her announcement that she was pregnant with twins, Cochran claimed that the producers gave her less work. She also alleged that co-workers subjected her to ridicule over her weight gain. Cochran miscarried one of the twins, and she gave birth to the other three months premature. She suffered severe stress as a result of caring for the child and attempting to lose weight so she could return to the show. She claims that the producers declined to give her a firm answer on when she could return, and she eventually learned that she had been fired when they removed her from the show’s website in 2010.
Cochran sued the show’s production companies, FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions, alleging unlawful pregnancy discrimination. The defendants made two primary arguments in their defense. They argued that, over the multiple decades that the show has aired, forty percent of its models had become pregnant at some point, and that the show’s policy was not to allow models to work during pregnancy. They claimed that, at the time of Cochran’s termination, they were simply satisfied with the five models appearing on the show.
The jury awarded Cochran $776,944 in damages on November 20, 2012. The following day, the jury returned a judgment of over $7.7 million in punitive damages against the defendants. FremantleMedia stated that it expected to prevail on appeal.
“The Price is Right” has seen numerous suits lawsuits brought by current and former models alleging sexual harassment, most of which ended in out-of-court settlements. Another pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against the producers, filed by former model Shane Stirling in 2010, ended in a dismissal after the court found that the statute of limitations for her claims had expired.
At Phillips & Associates, we work to safeguard the rights of employees and job seekers in the New York City area who have experienced pregnancy discrimination and other forms of employment discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
New York Fashion Models Form Rights Group to Fight Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 7, 2012
Blockbuster Settles Harassment and Discrimination Suit for $2 Million, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 3, 2012
Game Show Model Files Sexual Harassment Suit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 5, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Bill Cullen The Price Is Right 1963’ by NBC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.