A former model on the long running game show, the Price is Right has
won a jury verdict of $777,000 in a suit against the show, claiming that she was discriminated
against because of her pregnancy.
After taking her maternity leave from the show, Brandi Cochran said she
was rejected by the producers because of her pregnancy and a jury has agreed.
In bringing a claim for pregnancy discrimination, an individual such as
Ms. Cochran must establish that: (1) she is a member of a protected class,
(2) she was qualified for her position, (3) she suffered adverse employment
action and that (4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances
giving rise to an inference of discrimination. These four factors constitute
the framework established by the United States Supreme Court in
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
In discrimination cases, Plaintiffs such as Ms. Cochran do not have to
establish that discrimination was the employer's only motivation but
simply that discriminatory bias played some role in the employment decisions. See
Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa, 539 U.S. 90, 101 (2003) (a plaintiff must only show that discrimination
was a "motivating factor.").
In the case against the Price Is Right, Ms. Cochran and her attorneys have
convinced the jury that her pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave motivated
the company's refusal to hire her back, at least in part.
Now that Ms. Cochran has a verdict in her favor, the court will address
the question of whether Ms. Cochran is entitled to punitive damages to
punish the Price is Right for its unlawful behavior. The standard is set
forth in caselaw such as
Tse v. UBS Fin. Servs., Inc., 568 F.Supp.2d 274, 310 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) in which the court held that "plaintiff
was only required to show that [defendant] acted intentionally and with
reckless indifference to the perceived risk that his actions might violate
the law. Because the jury could reasonably have found that plaintiff made
that showing, its decision to award punitive damages may not be disturbed."