The popular television game show "The Price Is Right" has been hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit by former show model Lanisha Cole. The lawsuit includes seven complaints against two of the show's producers, including sexual harassment and false imprisonment.
Lanisha Cole, 29, one of Barker's Beauties, as show models were sometimes called after longtime show host Bob Barker, began working for the "The Price Is Right" in February 2003. Cole's lawyer, Solomon Gresen, said landing a job on the long-running game show was a "dream come true" for his client.
A show model on "The Price Is Right" interacts with the host, displays consumer items and turns numbers on the various games that have become the fabric of the show. And for six years, Cole's "dream job" seemed perfect. But that all changed in December 2009, according to court documents filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Show producers Adam Sandler and Michael G. Richards, no relation to the high-profile actors of the same names, and FremantleMedia North America, which produces such powerhouse shows as Fox's "American Idol" and the syndicated game show "Family Feud," are named in the suit.
The lawsuit alleges that producer Richards stopped speaking to Cole, and would communicate only through notes, messages and intermediaries, according to the court filing. This behavior lasted for more than a year, according to Gresen. "Why would he just stop talking to her? I have no idea, and nor does she," he said
The suit also alleges that Richards began to show favoritism to another show model with whom he was allegedly engaged in a relationship. That model, according to the court filing, showed up late for work and pursued other modeling opportunities without repercussions to her job on "The Price is Right." Whereas Cole, the lawsuit alleges, was repeatedly called into meetings to discuss "matters related to her employment," despite what Cole's attorney said was an "exemplary employment record."
In September 2010, according to the lawsuit, Sandler, the other producer named in the suit, entered Cole's dressing room without permission and began to berate her loudly as she stood nearly naked except for "sheer thong bikini underwear." After that incident, the situation on the show deteriorated for Cole and "began to affect her health," said Gresen. The legal filing states that Cole had "a severe physical reaction to the stress and anxiety created by her employer's refusal to address her complaints and their failure to treat her the same way as every other "Price Is Right" model."
Following a meeting with human resources in which Richards was present that did not resolve the situation and after several more instances of mistreatment, Cole decided to quit, according to her attorney. "She is heartbroken over the situation," said Gresen, "because she loved the models and Drew Carey and the people. And she also feels a little bit of indignation and anger. She really felt it was time to stand up for herself."
Cole's suit consists of seven complaints, including false imprisonment, which stems from the dressing room incident, sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. When asked to comment on the allegations, a spokesperson for Fremantlemedia North America, a defendant, told ABC News.com, "We don't comment on pending litigation."
Gresen said even though Coles' lawsuit centers on a specific industry and involves a beautiful model and a popular television game show, workplace sexual harassment is widespread. "Time and again, I see cases of women who are mistreated by men in positions of power. … It happens all the time" said Gresen.
The lawsuit seeks damages for medical expenses, lost job opportunities and "extreme and severe physical and mental anguish."