Gabrielle Union has filed a discrimination complaint, nearly six months after she was ousted from Americaâ€™s Got Talent. The actress and activist said she was fired after only one season for raising concerns about toxicity and racial incidents on set.Â
In the complaint, which was filed on Thursday with Californiaâ€™s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), Union names NBCUniversal and the showâ€™s producers, FremantleMedia and Simon Cowellâ€™s Syco. In a statement to Variety, Union â€” via her attorney â€” also made an alarming accusation against NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy, claiming he â€œthreatenedâ€ her to keep quiet about â€œwhistleblowing.â€ (The company later called the allegation â€œcategorically untrue.â€)
â€œWhen Gabrielle Union informed NBC of racially offensive conduct during the taping of Americaâ€™s Got Talent, NBC did not â€˜standâ€™ with her in â€˜outrage at acts of racism,â€™â€ said Unionâ€™s high-powered attorney, Bryan Freedman, referring to the companyâ€™s recent support of the Black Lives Matter movement.Â
â€œInstead, NBC did not care enough to either promptly investigate Ms. Unionâ€™s complaints or even ask HR to get involved. Rather, NBC stood against her and directed its â€˜outrageâ€™ at Ms. Union for whistleblowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on Americaâ€™s Got Talent,â€ Freedman continued.
Freedman alleged that Telegdy â€œactually 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.â€
DFEH complaints are often precursors to lawsuits. According to journalist Yashar Ali, Union intends to file a separate lawsuit against Cowell.
Yahoo Entertainment reached out to Fremantle, Syco and Cowell for comment but did not immediately receive responses.Â NBCU denied anyone threatened the actress.
â€œThe allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue. We took Ms. Unionâ€™s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show,â€ a spokesperson said on Thursday. â€œNBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.â€
Union has not directly addressed the complaint, but her husband did. Dwyane Wade replied to Aliâ€™s tweet.
Yâ€™all have deemed her a liar after months of trying to inform yâ€™all of the issues in the work place and also make sure other employees of color that comes after her wonâ€™t have the same experiences. https://t.co/bjnVzug6gi
â€” DWade (@DwyaneWade) June 4, 2020
Union broke her silence last week about specific issues she encountered during her time as a judge on the competition show. Speaking with Varietyâ€™s Matt Donnelly, the actress confirmed earlier reports that she lodged a complaint about Cowellâ€™s indoor smoking. Union said it was a dire choice for someone â€œcoming onto a set and you are literally met with the very definition of a toxic work environment, and itâ€™s being carried out by the most powerful person on the production.â€
â€œI couldnâ€™t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight. It was a cold that lingered, and turned into bronchitis, because I couldnâ€™t shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job,â€ she said, adding her constant illness rattled fellow judge Howie Mandel, who has talked about his struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and germophobia.
â€œIt was challenging to tend to my illness without being made to feel like Iâ€™m responsible for my own sickness,â€ she continued. â€œIt put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when Iâ€™m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.â€Â
Union also raised concerns about multiple racially insensitive incidents she witnessed, including one involving Jay Leno. When asked specifically about the report that she was told her hairstyles were â€œtoo blackâ€ for viewers, the actress wouldnâ€™t comment, citing NBCUniversalâ€™s ongoing investigation.Â
Shortly after Unionâ€™s interview, NBC, Fremantle and Syco released findings from the investigation into Unionâ€™s departure and said there was no evidence of racial bias or â€œderogatory remarks.â€Â
Watch â€” Gabrielle Union breaks silence on departure from Americaâ€™s Got Talent:
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