February 22, 2012 12:30pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Price Is Right' Producers Win Pregnancy Bias Lawsuit
Over the years, many former models featured on the game show The Price is Right have accused producers of harassment and discrimination. On Tuesday, a California judge tentatively dismissed one of those lawsuits from a woman who claimed she was fired from the show as a result of her pregnancy.
In 2010, model Shane Stirling sued CBS and producer Freemantle Media, alleging she joined the show in 2002, was given time off during her pregnancy in 2007, and eventually was let go from after she returned in 2008. Stirling blamed discrimination for her discharge.
During the pre-trial phases of this dispute, Stirling had trouble demonstrating sufficient evidence that her employment was terminated because of the effects of the pregnancy. She tried pointing to comments made by one of the show's producers, Kathy Greco, who testified during a deposition that Stirling might have been "a few pounds overweight." But that wasn't enough to show why producers waited more than a year after she gave birth to fire her.
Producers of Price is Right had an alternative explanation for why she was let go. The judge found it to be a "legitimate" one.
In 2007, show host Bob Barker retired and was replaced by Drew Carey. The producers reported they used the occassion to make several creative changes to the show, including cutting down the modeling staff from ten to five, and in order to adapt to Carey's improvisational comedic style, they wanted the remaining models to maintain a diversity of appearances, superior modeling talent, and personalities that could best interact with Carey. Stirling was found wanting in those areas, they said, so she was let go.
The model tried to allege that she was forced into taking too much time off during her pregnancy, and that as a result, wasn't given the opportunity to become acquainted with the new staff. Had she been allowed less time off, she argued that she would have had a better chance of retaining her job.
But California judge Charles Palmer said that regardless of the merits of such an argument, all this happened between 2006-2007, a period where the statute of limitations had passed.
The judge previously dismissed CBS from the lawsuit because the network didn't have anything to do with staffing on the show. The latest decision, if left to stand, would also free Freemantle. The judge is primed not only to dismiss allegations of discrimination, but also Stirling's remaining charges that producers should be held responsible for negligent hiring and supervision as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The defendants in this lawsuit were successfully represented by Kate Gold, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath.
Stirling is one of many models who has sued the show.in the many decades since it has been on the air. Others include former Miss USA Brandi Cochran, Dian Parkinson, Holly Hallstrom, and most recently, Lanisha Cole. The latter sued in September, claiming that a producer on the show exibited favoritism to another model whom he was dating.