Former Price is Right Model Wins Pregnancy Discrimination Jury Verdict
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.”