From Digital Spy
Former America’s Got Talent judge Gabrielle Union has filed a complaint against the show’s network, production companies and Simon Cowell over allegations of racism and sexism on set.
The actress served as a judge on the reality TV programme for one series before NBC later confirmed that Union wouldn’t be returning to the show amid claims of a ‘toxic culture’ on the series.
Union has now filed a harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), naming producers FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell’s Syco as well as NBC Universal and Simon Cowell himself (via Deadline).
The complaint outlines Union’s allegations of racial insensitivity and sexism on set, and it also alleges that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy “threatened Union through her agent” over her speaking out against racism on set.
Alongside the complaint, Union’s lawyer Bryan Freedman has also issued a statement criticising NBC’s recent statement in support of the Black Lives Matter protests, saying that “NBC did not ‘stand'” with Union when she raised concerns of racially offensive conduct.
“When Gabrielle Union informed NBC of racially offensive conduct during the taping of America’s Got Talent, NBC did not ‘stand’ with her in ‘outrage at acts of racism’,” Freedman said (via TVLine).
“Instead, NBC did not care enough to either promptly investigate Ms. Union’s complaints or even ask HR to get involved. Rather, NBC stood against her and directed its ‘outrage’ at Ms. Union for whistleblowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on America’s Got Talent.”
Digital Spy has reached out to representatives of NBC Universal and Syco for comment.
NBC previously launched an internal investigation into Union’s claims back in December and released a statement about the result of the investigation last month, saying that “the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract”.
“While the investigation has demonstrated an overall culture of diversity, it has also highlighted some areas in which reporting processes could be improved,” the statement read.
“Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time.”
America’s Got Talent host Terry Crews has also now publicly apologised to Gabrielle Union again for not supporting her after she was fired from the show.
“I am privileged as man, in a society that also has sexism built in. This privilege carries over into my community as a Black man in relationship with Black women,” Terry wrote on Twitter today (June 4).
“It is in this light I want to make further amends with Black women, and in particular [Gabrielle Union] for not recognising the privilege I have – especially in the workplace – and adding this fact to my earlier apology.”
Whites have always had privilege in a society that has systemic racism built in, a fact that has been proven over and over again with the senseless deaths of unarmed Black men and women— with no one being held accountable.
Last month, Union opened up about her departure from the series, calling the show a “toxic work environment”.
“It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated,” she said. “I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”
For more information on how you can support Black Lives Matter, please visit its official website or donate here. Readers can also donate to the UK anti-discrimination group Stand Up To Racism, and the Unite Families & Friends Campaign, which supports those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.
Gabrielle Union filed a harassment complaint against NBC and the producers of America’s Got Talent, including Simon Cowell. This complaint was filed months after Union was let go as a judge from the show, alongside fellow judge Julianne Hough. In November 2019, Union and multiple inside sources told media outlets that the AGT work environment was toxic, with one source revealing that Union was told her hairstyles were “too Black” for the show’s audience.
Union’s complaint claims that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy threatened her once she began speaking out about the racism she experienced on the America’s Got Talent set.
Earlier reports state that Union became sick with a lung illness after being subjected to Cowell’s indoor smoking, and she witnessed a brushing off of racist jokes made by guest judge Jay Leno. Furthermore, she told Variety in a separate interview that she was appalled that AGT did not give contestants the option to make judges aware of their preferred pronouns. Yet, according to Union, NBC lagged on investigating any of the above when she brought these instances to their attention.
a studio executive once told me her all white staff was diverse because of their “diversity of thought”
“When Gabrielle Union informed NBC of racially offensive conduct during the taping of America’s Got Talent, NBC did not ‘stand’ with her in ‘outrage at acts of racism,’” Union’s attorney Bryan Freedman said in a statement to Variety, in response to NBC’s recent support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Instead, NBC did not care enough to either promptly investigate Ms. Union’s complaints or even ask HR to get involved.”
Freedman continued, “Rather, NBC stood against her and directed its ‘outrage’ at Ms. Union for whistleblowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on America’s Got Talent.”
A spokesperson for NBCUniversal responded to the official complaint, per Variety, saying that, “the allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue. We took Ms. Union‘s concerns seriously and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show. NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.”
Union’s husband Dwayne Wade wasn’t buying the idea that Union’s complaints were properly investigated and he came out to defend his wife.
So instead of making sure your work environment is a a better place for everyone. Y’all have decided that she what? Made it all up because she lost a job? She’s a black women in Hollywood she has lost out on many jobs https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1268589666170630146 …
1. BREAKING: After months of attempting to negotiate with NBC Universal on their cultural/workplace issues, @itsgabrielleu has filed a complaint against NBC Universal, @FremantleUS, @SimonCowell, and @syco
I am told she will be filing a separate suit against @SimonCowell as well https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1199796636760846347 …
“At the end of all this, my goal is real change—and not just on this show but for the larger parent company,” Union said in her recent Variety interview. “It starts from the top down. My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected, and healthy example of a workplace.”
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