Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Price Is Right' Model Wins $7.7 Mil In Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Brandi Cochran, a former Price is Right model, was awarded $7.7 Million (including $7 Mil. in punitive damages) against the producers of the day-time TV game show, for allegedly discriminating against her based on her pregnancy. 

Under California law, employees who have been discriminated against can recover a wide range of damages, including compensatory damages (lost wages from the date of firing up through trial, future earnings, the costs of medical care, and interest on damages), emotional distress damages and, in many cases, attorney’s fees.  In some cases, such as this Price is Right case, employers may be vulnerable to punitive damages, designed to punish the employer and deter further discriminatory acts.

Ms. Cochran had worked on the show for seven years before getting pregnant.  Cochran alleged that, shortly after she told producers that she was pregnant, her executive producer asked about how long was she planning to work, and whether she would try to work if she got "really big." Then, after gaining weight, other show employees teased her about the weight gain and called her insulting names such as "wide load."  She also claimed that the producers pressured to announce her pregnancy on the air, and when she delivered the news that she was carrying twins, she was given less work. Ms. Cochran further alleged that, after taking maternity leave in 2010, the producers refused to call her back and then fired her after four months.  She filed suit.

The LA jury agreed with Ms. Cochran and awarded the former model $7,763,440 in damages, including $776,000 in compensatory damages and a substantial $7 million in punitive damages.  

The show’s producers, FremantleMedia, have stated that they would be appealing the ruling because they claim that the court refused to allow the jury to hear evidence that the show had allowed other models to appear on the show while pregnant.  (I would also expect the punitive damages award to be challenged, based on the Supreme Court case of State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell (2003) 538 US 408, 133 S.Ct. 1513, which held that punitive damages awards ordinarily should not exceed compensatory damages by more than a single-digit ratio.) 

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