'Price Is Right' model wins $7.7M in discrimination, wrongful termination lawsuit
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Brandi Cochran had been a fixture on "The Price Is Right" for seven years, but she says the price she paid for deciding to start a family was too much for any woman.
"My fear was losing my job if I got pregnant and that's ultimately what happened," she said.
The 41-year-old game show model sued FremantleMedia North America and "The Price Is Right" productions, claiming pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination. She won, and a jury on Wednesday awarded her more than $7.7 million in punitive damages.
After years of struggling to conceive, Cochran got pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. It was supposed to be one of the happiest times of her life. Instead, she says the reaction from the show's executive producer was less than congratulatory.
"He was mad at me and it was hard to comprehend someone upset that I was having twins," she said. "And then I would get questions, 'How long are you going to work?' 'Are you going to work if you get really big?'"
Then there was name calling on the set.
"Wide load, I was told I was breaking the set because I was packing a lot of extra weight, things like that," Cochran said.
When Cochran's pregnancy started to show on the air, the producers stopped calling her.
"And unfortunately tragedy struck and I lost my son, and my daughter was very premature, she was in the hospital fighting for her life for months," she said.
Cochran suffered postpartum depression, but months after her maternity leave in 2010, she was ready to return to the show.
"They ignored me, for probably about four months, trying to get a direct response about working," she said.
The $7.7 million judgment awarded to Cochran will be tacked on to the almost $800,000 that she has already been awarded for compensatory damages.
"We think it sends the right message to other employers out there that if you have a pregnant employee you have to treat them and obey the laws," said Cochran's lawyer Carney Shegerian.
Cochran says she is happy with the lawsuit's outcome.
"I'm so grateful to the jury for acknowledging that the lost work and the lost wages, that's part of why I'm here, and it's been a very emotional time.
For Cochran, the verdict is bittersweet. She knows she'll have a hard time getting back into the business after filing suit against an employer, but she's looking ahead to the example she has set for her now 3 1/2-year-old daughter.
"I want to be able to tell my daughter Katie one day it's worth standing up for something," she said.
FreemantleMedia is planning to appeal.
"We believe the verdict in this case was the result of a flawed process in which the court, among other things, refused to allow the jury to hear and consider that 40 percent of our models have been pregnant and other important evidence to our defense," the company said in a statement. "We expect to be fully vindicated after the matter has been reviewed."
legal, television, entertainment, leslie miller
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