Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 26, 2012

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A discrimination lawsuit brought by a former model of “The Price Is Right” was settled last week when a jury awarded Brandi Cochran $7.7 million in punitive damages and $777,000 in actual damages. The former game show model sued producers for discrimination and wrongful termination based on her pregnancy. 

Cochran was one of the game show’s rotating models from 2002 to 2009, during the Bob Barker years. Then, according to reports, when she asked to return to work in 2010 after taking maternity leave, she was turned away. 

After hearing the case, the jury determined that the former “Bob’s Beauty” (as the show’s models are commonly referred) was not readmitted by The Price Is Right Productions and FremantleMedia specifically because of her pregnancy. Reports indicate that the defendants will be appealing the decision, claiming that the reason they did not bring Cochran back on was because they were fully staffed for models at the time. They are also saying they believe the jury was not given the opportunity to hear all of the available evidence, including some showing that other models had been hired after pregnancies, according to The Wall Street Journal

What Are Punitive Damages? 

Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages for civil suits in that the purpose of punitive damages is to punish a defendant in hopes of preventing the behavior that caused harm to the plaintiff. Instead of damages that compensate a person for pain and suffering or lost wages (actual damages), punitive damages are not meant to make the plaintiff whole again, but to penalize the defendant for their actions. Many states restrict the amount of punitive damages available in civil cases. Some states, for example, limit punitive damage awards to no more than three times the amount of actual damages.

Wrongful Termination Employment Law

Wrongful termination can be legal grounds for a lawsuit if a plaintiff can prove that an employer breached an employment contract in the firing process. It can also refer to incidence of an employer terminating a worker in violation of an employment law statute. 

There are established scenarios that may be grounds for a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, among them are when: 

  1. An employer terminates an employment based on any of the following protected statuses: race, nationality, religion, sex, age, or sexual orientation.
  2. An employer terminates an employee for refusing to aid in any type of illegal act requested by the employer or another employee.
  3. An employer fires a worker because that worker made a claim of discrimination or testified to discrimination happening in their workplace.

These employment laws are set in place to ensure employers can not abuse their workers’ services or terminate an employee for being a certain race, sex, religion, or other protected status. In some cases, it may be okay to require a worker be able to lift a certain weight or carry out a specific task, but as long as a person meets these requirements – male or female – they cannot be denied employment. In Brandi Cochran’s case, the jury relied on the discrimination argument to determine that the game show producers violated the law. It was shown that by not allowing Cochran to come back to work after her pregnancy, she was being discriminated against, and owed damages for her losses. 

Read more on Employment Law and Workers’ Rights here