Officially, it's illegal for employers to discriminate against pregnant workers, but in practice, pregnancy discrimination is common, according to the Employment Opportunity Commission statistics. Brandi Cochran, a model on "The Price Is Right" game show from 2002 to 2008, claims that she is part of this trend, saying that she was illegally fired and subjected to insults after she became pregnant.
One incident that Cochran (pictured above) recalled was when she walked past a "Price Is Right" producer, who proceeded to remark, "wide load coming through." The model's civil lawsuit finally went to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday. (The complaint does not specify the amount of damages Cochran is seeking.)
According to Cochran, her employer showed hostility to her pregnancy when she had an earlier pregnancy, from which she miscarried in 2007. A "Price Is Right "producer told her "it's nature's way of getting rid of a bad baby," according to TMZ.
When she got pregnant the following year, and miscarried, she went on disability leave for post-partum depression. After producers began dropping off in requesting appearances from her, they eventually told her she was being terminated, according to the Law360 website, which reports on business law.
producers couldn't sell her pregnancy, they couldn't sell her disability, and she couldn't be exploited, so they fired her," her attorney James Urbanic said during opening arguments.
Cochran's suit was filed back in 2010 against CBS Corp., FremantleMedia Ltd., and The Price is Right Productions Inc. Superior Court Judge Kevin Brazile dropped CBS from the suit back in September, citing the television network's lack of involvement in staffing decisions for the show.
In presenting his client's case, Urbanic said that after Cochran announced her first pregnancy, the producers drastically reduced the model's appearances on "The Price Is Right."
FremantleMedia attorney Kate Gold, said Cochran's firing had nothing to do with her pregnancy. Gold said that when Bob Barker left as the game show's host in 2007, and Drew Carey became the new host, it began using fewer models and chose models that could adapt to Carey's "improvisational style."
Moreover, Gold said the show's producers didn't even know about Cochran's depression, and even if they had, the producers would not consider it a problem. After all, the show's new host had a widely cited public record of talking about his own depression and history of suicide attempts.
The suit, which is expected to wrap up in three or four weeks, is the latest in a line of lawsuits involving "The Price is Right" and its models. According to a report by Time magazine, the lawsuits that have gone for decades depict "an institutionalized attitude that allowed executives to treat models on the show (and female staffers) as second-class citizens."
Perhaps the most famous suit came from show model Dian Parkinson, who sued the "The Price Is Right" back in 1994 for $8 million, claiming that she had been forced to have sex with Barker to keep her job. Barker denied that, but he did eventually say that he and Parkinson had a consensual relationship. While the judge dismissed the wrongful termination part of the suit, it was Parkinson who decided not to pursue the sexual harassment charge, citing insufficient funds.
While Carey has not yet been ensnared in any of the suits, the string of litigation has continued into his reign as host. Just last year, former show model Lanisha Cole filed a lawsuit citing wrongful termination against "The Price Is Right." Cole says her treatment on the show changed dramatically in 2009 when one of the producers began to skip over her in favor of another model with whom he was having a relationship. The producer, named Adam Sandler (no relation to the comedian), also allegedly would burst into Cole's dressing room without knocking, castigating her for not wearing her microphone on set.
Cole's case, like Cochran's, is still in the courts.
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