Game Show Model Files Sexual Harassment Suit

A former model on the famous game show “The Price is Right” has filed a lawsuit against the production company and two of the show’s producers for sexual harassment and other claims. She alleges that the producers engaged in a pattern of harassment and abuse, and that the production company contributed to a hostile environment. Although the case is in California, it is relevant to New York because both places are major centers of the entertainment business. Laws against harassing and hostile work environments protect entertainers the same as any other employee. This is especially true in situations where an employee’s physical beauty is key to his or her (but usually her) job duties.

Lanisha Cole began working on “The Price is Right,” produced by Freemantle Media North America, as a model in 2003. She alleges that problems began in December 2009, when producer Michael Richards, who is not related to the actor of the same name, began to refuse to communicate with her directly. Richards would only send her messages through other models on the show. She alleges this was because Richards was dating another one of the show’s models and was favoring her over Cole. This behavior persisted, she claims, until she left the show.

In September 2010, producer Adam Sandler, also not related to the actor of the same name, allegedly publicly berated her and stormed into her dressing room uninvited, while she was in a state of undress, on at least one occasion. In October 2010, Cole collapsed on set after suffering what she called “an extreme physical reaction.” She met with Richards and a representative from human resources that same day, when she says Richards apologized for his behavior but would not acknowledge his alleged favoritism. He also did not address Sandler’s behavior.

Cole further alleges that Freemantle denied her request in December 2010 to take a day off for family time, telling her it violated a company policy. She says Freemantle later acknowledged it had no such policy. She alleges that Freemantle later accused her of “holding the show hostage” because if her harassment claims against Richards and Sandler. She experienced another physical reaction and quit the show the same day.

She filed suit in September 2011 in Los Angeles Superior Court for sexual harassment, false imprisonment, wrongful constructive termination, unlawful retaliation, and other claims. “Constructive” termination refers to a working environment so intolerable that an employee has not choice but to quit, which is in effect no different than if the company had fired the employee. She claims Freemantle created this environment in retaliation for her complaints about Richards and Sandler. Her claim of sexual harassment relates to her treatment by Richards and Sandler. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination, since it involves conduct directed towards an employee based on their gender, often of a prurient or overtly sexual nature.

All of the actions described in her complaint violate employment discrimination laws, at least in the way she describes them. In New York City, the city’s Commission on Human Rights enforces these laws. The Commission investigates allegations of discrimination or harassment, although the assistance of an employment lawyer is necessary to recover damages from an employer.

The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and fight to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact the firm today.

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