Does A Large Sexual Discrimination Lawsuit Help Or Hurt Women In The Workplace?

San Francisco Heart One LoveThe producers of “The Price is Right” owe a former model on the show more than $7.7 million in punitive damages for discriminating against her after a pregnancy, a jury determined on Wednesday, Nov 21. The actual damage award was just $777,000. In other words, the punitive damage was 10X greater! A large part of the award comes from the probability the victim will never find employment again due to the lawsuit. She must therefore be compensated for future lost wages as well.

Cochran, 41, said she was rejected when she tried to return to work in early 2010 after taking maternity leave. Putting aside any performance issues or personality conflicts, being denied re-employment after taking maternity leave is clearly wrong. Someone has to give birth, and women should not be punished for having a baby! In fact, women should actually be praised by men for having a baby because goodness knows it’s not easy!

Think for a moment if Brandi Cochran was your mother or sister. You would defend her against discrimination to the very end! Things are financially better now for Brandi Cochran and her family. Neither she nor her husband probably ever have to work again if she practices good personal finance. Brandi says, “I’m humbled. I’m shocked.” “I’m happy that justice was served today not only for women in the entertainment industry, but women in the workplace.

My biggest fear is the negative backlash from the public against women in the workplace who do not undertand the details of the case, only the superficial headlines. We do not know how much Brandi was making at The Price Is Right, what her qualifications are, nor her duration of employment. All we know is that she “won” more than $8.5 million dollars for being discriminated against. Everybody’s immediate reaction is “WOW!” or “Sign me up for getting discriminated against too!

FIGHT FOR EQUALITY 

I fight for equality every chance I get on Financial Samurai because I’ve been discriminated against growing up overseas and living in the South during high school and college. I remember standing up every single damn time, not caring whether I would be knocked out or stabbed in the stomach.

I kept on fighting until one late evening, I was sitting with my college girlfriend at Denny’s (of all places) when four massive football players in a booth next door started heckling us for no reason. Maybe they were drinking, but drinking is not an excuse. They started saying derogatory words to me and my girl, who so happened to be more beautiful than any of these dipshits could ever have. All I wanted to do was defend her honor.

I began to grab my knife as their racist rants grew louder until my girlfriend whispered in my ear for us to walk away. After thinking things through, I acquiesced. It was me vs. 1,000+ pounds and there was no way I could win. Besides, I didn’t want to have a blight on my record before graduation. It was then that I realized I could fight for equality in a non-violent, but exponentially more powerful way.

Read: Is Discrimination OK, If You Are Not Being Discriminated Against?

MY FEAR FOR WOMEN

Let’s say you are in charge of hiring someone for any job, no matter how important or not. You spend a minute reading about this $8.5 million dollar lawsuit. What is going on in your mind? Hopefully you are purely focusing on the qualifications of the candidate and not their sex or sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we sometimes make decisions that are clouded by our biases. Rightly or wrongly, some managers reading this story will at the margin be more fearful of hiring a woman.

One of the most important items I discuss in my book on how to profitably quit your job is understanding what employers fear most. Once you understand your employer’s fears, you stand a much higher chance of negotiating a fantastic severance package.

For The Price Is Right Productions, their biggest fears have come true:

* Wasted time and money on an employee discrimination lawsuit

* Losing the multi-million dollar lawsuit

* Receiving massive negative publicity from the media

The negative publicity alone will probably cost The Price Is Right Productions tens of millions of dollars in lost advertisement revenue as well as potentially a loss in viewership. The lawsuit might engender other Price Is Right models from coming forward and filing their own multi-million dollar lawsuit as well. This whole thing is a disaster for the company.

If the management of The Price Is Right knew in 2010 what they know now, they’d hire Brandi Cochran back in a heartbeat after giving birth. And if Brandi was rejected or wanted to move on to another career or be a stay at home mom, Brandi could have negotiated a fantastic severance! Of coure Brandi would not have gotten mega-millions as a severance. But at the time, she and her company would probably be happy with one or two year’s pay.

HOPE FOR OUR DAUGHTERS

If we can drill it into people’s minds that discrimination is wrong, the world would be a better place for our wives and daughters. Unfortunately, if you have never been discriminated against, you don’t truly know what it feels like, and you won’t really do anything about it.

Nobody is naive to think equality will happen over night, but every single one of these lawsuits is a step in the right direction. There might be a near-term fear of hiring women, but in the long-run, such lawsuits provide precedence and prove there are repercussions for sexual discrimination in the workplace.

Readers, what do you think about large discrmination lawsuits and its affect on women’s employment opportunities? Is there any relation to litigation fears and the difference in wages between men and women? Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Regards,

Sam

How To Make Money Quitting Your Job

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Eric Shun says

    According to Wikipedia, Bob Barker and the Price is Right have been sued several times by the spokesmodels over the years.

      • Eric Shun says

        All or nearly all were confidentially settled. It just seems odd that so many of the spokes models sued Price is Right and Bob Barker over the years. It almost seems like the law suit is the ultimate objective of the models.

        I’ve sometimes wondered after reading about these kinds of large settlements whether the plaintiff and defendant have conspired to make a false claim in order to receive and share a large payout from the insurance company.

  2. Untemplater says

    Oh wow she must have been devastated being turned down like that after having a baby. Show business is kind of tricky since a huge majority of it is based on appearances so I’m glad she was able to get money to pay put towards raising her family. It makes sense that she was compensated for lost future earnings because I’m sure she probably won’t ever get hired again, unless perhaps from a company or network run by women.

    It’s frustrating to me that women are still discriminated against and get passed up on promotions and raises in the workplace as well. You said it right that someone has to give birth and women shouldn’t have to fear that starting a family will cost them their careers. That’s just wrong.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Appearance is so subjective…. I don’t know what qualifies, or whether a standard of “desired appearance” is even possible without causing the biggest outrage EVER!

      I don’t understand why any male would ever be against equality for women in the workplace. We have mothers, sisters, and wives. To deny women equality is to deny themselves.

  3. Benjamin says

    $8.5 million is a lot of money to get denied a job, especially in this economy where so many people are unemployed!

    There must have been aomethig malicious for the jury to award such a huge sum. If love to see all our injured veterans get rewarded Multi millions!!

    • Financial Samurai says

      It is a shame that our injured veterans do not get more assistance from the gov’t, and the fact there are veterans who still have to fight at home to find a job. Seriously gov’t? We need to take care of our troops.

  4. Financial Samurai says

    Interesting point about small companies vs. large companies. I don’t know many small businesses… truly small businesses with sub $10 million a year in revenue who can digest a $7.5 mil+ lawsuit. The whole business would shut down!

    I think the jury takes the size of the business into consideration when rewarding punitive damages though.

    • Eric Shun says

      A general liability insurance policy would pay the judgement, but, as I understand, large judgements are always appealed and significantly reduced.

  5. Stevo says

    I have a feeling that a lot of women are going to be very bitter about this model’s settlement. #1) She is in the modeling industry, which many women despise due to the perceived exploitation of women, #2) other women aren’t getting some of those millions, no matter how much her victory is for all women!

    This is one big step back for women, and I think women know it. No man or woman will hire a woman if they can hire a man with this type of litigation extreme existing in our country!

  6. Brick by Brick Investing says

    This post definitely resonates with me as I have unfortunately experienced similar situations. It’s a shame that we are still dealing with these issues but as your article states standing against discrimination is what we have to do in order to make a difference.

  7. Ed says

    I disagree. You are pushing an entitlement mentality. The purpose of a company is to make money…not support people. If a woman choses to take maternity leave, then who is going to do her job in the mean time? Should the company just shut down? Its her right to have a baby…it’s not the company’s responsibility to provide ANYONE with employment whether its a dude applying as a Hooter’s waitress or an unfit woman applying for the Navy Seals.

    I’m facing discrimination as an older worker in a largely non-white government workforce. I think I have a case on racial discrimination, but I am also a realist that being “old” probably makes me less desirable for many reasons.

    So, we’re going to differ on your ideal of egalitarianism.

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