A California jury has awarded a former model on “The Price Is Right” game show punitive damages of $7.7 million for pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination. The woman, who appeared on the show for seven years prior to the birth of her twins, already had been awarded actual damages of $777,000. The punitive damages award is in addition to the earlier award. The show’s producers are appealing.
The former model, who tried to conceive for years before finally becoming pregnant, said the show’s executive producer was upset when she told him she was having twins, expressing concern that she would get really big. She also said her co-workers called her “wide load” and teased that she would break the set with the additional baby weight. Once her pregnancy started to show, the producers stopped calling her for work, and when she tried to return from maternity leave, she was rejected.
Under both California and federal law, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee who becomes pregnant or takes maternity leave. Following maternity leave, a new mother has a right to be reinstated to her former job or to a comparable position. Employers who do not comply are subject to liability for wrongful termination and unlawful discrimination. As the recent case reflects, juries are receptive to pregnancy discrimination claims.
Any woman who believes she has been treated unfairly or wrongfully discharged due to pregnancy or for taking maternity leave is advised to consult with an experienced pregnancy discrimination attorney. The attorney can help by investigating the circumstances to determine if there is evidence that the employee’s rights were violated.
Source: ABC News, “Former ‘Price Is Right’ Model Awarded $7.7M in Termination Suit,” Jennifer Abbey, Nov. 22, 2012