A former model on the long-running daytime game show "The Price is Right" received a verdict totalling over $8 million in a suit against the show's producers. The plaintiff alleged that the producers unlawfully discriminated against her because of her pregnancy by firing her after she took leave to give birth. Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on a worker's gender, and includes pregnancy discrimination as a form of gender bias. Laws in most states, including New Jersey, include similar prohibitions.
Brandi Cochran worked as a model on the show for several years before becoming pregnant. She alleged in her complaint that she witnessed discrimination by the show's producers against other models who became pregnant, and so decided not to reveal her pregnancy for some time in order, she believed, to protect her job. When Cochran informed one of the producers, the producer told her she knew, citing Cochran's weight gain. Cochran alleged that another producer, upon learning of the pregnancy, began to avoid interacting with her and suggested that he would have fired her had he known of the pregnancy.
Cochran claimed that the producers made her announce that she was pregnant with twins on the air. After the announcement, she alleged, the producers reduced her work load. She also allegedly received ridicule regarding her weight gain from co-workers. Cochran miscarried one of the twins, and she gave birth to the other three months premature. The child had severe health problems, and Cochran said she had to balance caring for the child and attempting to lose weight so she could return to the show. She claimed that the producers would not commit to a return date, and she eventually learned that she had been fired after she was removed from the show's website.
Cochran sued FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions, the show's producers, alleging unlawful discrimination based on pregnancy and demanding $8 million in damages. The defendants asserted that Cochran's pregnancy was not the reason for her firing, claiming that they were just satisfied with the models on the show at the time and did not need her to return. They also claimed that models may not work on the show during pregnancy, and they denied any improper treatment of Cochran.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury returned a verdict in favor of Cochran on November 20, 2012, finding that the producers did not rehire her because of her pregnancy and awarding her $776,944 in actual damages. In a separate proceeding to determine punitive damages the following day, the jury awarded Cochran an additional $7.7 million. FremantleMedia indicated that it intends to appeal the verdict and award.
The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of pregnancy. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination contains similar prohibitions. Discrimination may include decisions related to hiring, firing, layoffs, or promotions, as well as fringe benefits, job duties or assignments, and shift assignments.
If you need to speak to a pregnancy discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or 646-867-7997.
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New Jersey Passes Law Against Gender Discrimination, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, November 2, 2012
New Jersey Employment Discrimination: State Police Refuse to Answer Questions about Promotional Policies, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 23, 2012
National Boss Day Gift - A Look at 25 Largest Employment Lawsuit Settlements, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 18, 2012
Photo credit: 'BMW Isetta 1957' by National Broadcasting Company (Screenshot by Matthew Paul Argall) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.