A Judge Rules that Mo'Nique's Lawsuit Against Netflix Casn Move Forward
In a lawsuit that is drawing publicity, comedian Mo'Nique has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against online giant Netflix, claiming that the content provider discriminated against her by retaliating after she rejected what she has described as a "lowball offer" to do a comedy special for the company. In a minor victory for the performer, a court denied Netflix's motion to dismiss and ruled that the case can proceed to trial in court. The result will be watched closely as Netflix has rose to a near-dominant position in the online entertainment industry.
Netflix has made headlines in the past by paying eye-popping numbers for standup comedy specials. Performers such as Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle have cashed in with nin-figure deals with the content giant. However, Mo'Nique claims that Netflix made her a very low opening offer when she was negotiating her own comedy special with the company. Mo'Nique believes that she was offer dramatically less than other comedians who are not Black females. After the initial offer, Mo'Nique claims that she was blacklisted by the company after her negative response.
The Lawsuit Argues Discrimination Against Mo'Nique as a Black Woman
According to the comedian, Netflix offered her $500,000 to do a comedy special. The lawsuit claims that the company made it as a "take it or leave it" offer and refused to negotiate the price upwards. This amount is undoubtedly less than other comedians have received. Mo'Nique claims that Amy Schumer, a white comedian, was offered 26 times more money for her own special. The lawsuit argues that the company negotiated with Schumer and ended up paying her $2 million more than their opening offer.
Offended by the offer, Mo'Nique posted the terms of the offer to her on her Instagram page. She also revealed the restrictions that the company proposed, which she claimed where overly restrictive. Comedian Wanda Sykes also confirmed that Netflix made her a similarly low offer in contract negotiations. Sykes negotiated with another content provider and reached a deal while Mo'Nique filed a lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that there is a corporate culture of discrimination at Netflix in which women and minorities are underpaid. It noted one instance in which a female title character was paid less than a supporting actor. Mo'Nique also uses the fact that only 6% of Netflix's employees are Black and that there is little diversity in senior management as evidence of the discrimination in the company.
For its part, Netflix argues that its opening offer to Mo'Nique was fair. The company has pledged to defend the lawsuit. One can see how their ability to negotiate with performers is on the line depending on the court's ultimate decision in the case.
The lawsuit is interesting because it does not make Mo'Nique's actual pay as the basis of the lawsuit. She was never employed by Netflix because she did not agree to a deal with them. Instead, she claims that the company's opening offer discriminatory because it was so low in comparison to other agreements the company reached.
The Trial Judge Specifically Noted that Mo'Nique Was Raising a Novel Legal Theory
Regardless of whether Mo'nique's lawsuit can go forward, the trial judge did note that she raised a "novel" legal theory. In fact, the judge used some language in his decision that indicated that he was skeptical of the claims in the lawsuit. Specifically, he noted that the lawsuit was unique in that it argued that an opening offer was an adverse employment action that would trigger liability under anti-discrimination laws. Nonetheless, the judge said that he would allow the lawsuit to proceed at this point regardless of the ultimate chance of success on the merits. At this point, the judge stated that the comedian "plausibly" alleged that Netflix discriminated against her.
Legal observers will be watching closely to see if she prevails or for any language in the court's decision that will indicate whether these types of claims are viable going forward. Mo'Nique's attorney claims that she has filed the lawsuit as a way to shake up the status quo in Hollywood.
In response to her negotiations with Netflix, Mo-Nique has called for consumers to boycott the company. She has said that the company's "gender and color bias" should be enough for people to cancel their subscriptions. She called for this boycott in 2018, almost two years before she filed her discrimination suit against the company.
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