Gabrielle Union files discrimination complaint against 'America's Got Talent' producers

Gabrielle Union has officially filed a harassment complaint against America’s Got Talent producers, accusing NBC’s Paul Telegdy of threatening her for speaking out about racism on set.

The complaint, filed with California‘s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) on Thursday, also names FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell‘s Syco, as well as NBC Universal, Variety reports, adding that these kinds of complaints often lead to lawsuits.

“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, alluding to the company’s recent statement of support regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue,” said NBCU in a statement to Global News on Thursday evening. “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.”

On Monday, NBC tweeted: “We stand with our black employees, colleagues, partners, and creators in outrage at acts of racism. Black Lives Matter.”

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“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.”

Freedman’s statement continued: “In sharp contrast to NBC’s recent statement on race, what was truly an ‘outrage’ was the fact that Paul Telegdy, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, actually threatened Ms. Union in an attempt to silence her from telling the truth about racist actions that took place on the show.”

“There is no place for this type of racial bullying in the workplace, and it is going to take more than a Tweet from NBC to demonstrate that NBC intends to create an environment free from racism.”

Journalist Yashar Ali was one of the first to break the news, adding in a tweet that he was told a separate lawsuit would be filed against Cowell, the competition show’s executive producer.

Last November, it was announced that Union and Julianne Hough would not be returning to AGT next season. Days later, Variety published a report claiming there was a “toxic culture” on the set of AGT that included racist jokes and excessive focus on female judges’ appearances.

The new interview was published on May 27, the same day an investigation of Union’s complaints of racism on the set of the show concluded that her allegations were unfounded, according to NBC and the show’s producers.

“I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world,” Union told the outlet. “Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn’t. What could go wrong?”

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The Being Mary Jane actor continued: “There are so many people who are committed to making NBCUniversal and Comcast different, who truly want to be a part of the solution and on the right side of history. … In the same breath, there are some people who want the wheels of change to come to a grinding halt because they feel that their privilege is being challenged.”

Union had previously said she clashed with head judge Simon Cowell due to her concerns about his smoking cigarettes inside the theatre where the show is filmed. It’s against the law in California for an employer to allow smoking in a workplace.

— With files from Katie Scott

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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