Mo’Nique’s Discrimination Lawsuit Against Netflix Can Go Forward

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Written by Ann Brown
Netflix
Oscar-winning actress and comedienne Mo’Nique’s discrimination lawsuit against Netflix can go forward, a federal court ruled. Photo: Actress and comedian Mo’Nique is suing Netflix for what she is calling race and sex discrimination in its offer for a proposed comedy special. In the suit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the comedian and Oscar-winning actress says Netflix offered her $500,000 for a comedy special and refused to negotiate further. The suit says that stands in contrast to deals reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars for comedy specials from Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Chapelle and Ricky Gervais. In this Nov. 3, 2016 AP file photo, Mo’Nique arrives at the premiere of “Almost Christmas” in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

Back in 2018 when Mo’Nique complained about the amount of money she was offered by Netflix to do a comedy special, she didn’t have much support. Mo’Nique argued that the offer was too low compared to what male and white comedians were earning from the streaming giant. The actress and stand-up comedian had a hard time finding backers in Hollywood. She sued.

Now a federal court says her lawsuit alleging race and gender discrimination can proceed. In the suit, Mo’Nique alleges that streaming giant Netflix illegally retaliated against her when she rejected a “lowball” offer to do a comedy special. Netflix’s attempt to get the case dismissed has been denied.

According to U.S District Judge Andre Birotte Jr., Mo’Nique raised a “novel theory,” arguing that Netflix’s alleged failure to negotiate an “opening offer” in good faith, as is customary in the industry, constitutes an “adverse employment action” for purposes of a retaliation claim, USA Today reported.

“…Regardless of whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail on (her) claims, dismissing this case under Rule 12(b)(6) is not appropriate,” the judge said in his decision. “Plaintiff’s complaint may raise a novel issue, but that does not justify dismissing it at this stage.”

Mo’Nique, who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the drama “Precious,” filed her lawsuit in 2019

In 2018, Netflix offered Mo’Nique $500,000 for a comedy special and would not negotiate further, the lawsuit claimed, adding that the streaming service offered Amy Schumer, who is white, “26 times more per show than Mo’Nique.” Schumer was offered $11 million while Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock were both offered $20 million.

“Despite Mo’Nique’s extensive résumé and documented history of comedic success, when Netflix presented her with an offer of employment for an exclusive stand-up comedy special, Netflix made a lowball offer that was only a fraction of what Netflix paid other (non-Black female) comedians,” the lawsuit argued.   

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Mo’Nique’s suit also alleges that Netflix lacks Black representation in its senior leadership, citing figures that Black people only comprise 6 percent of its workforce as of 2019, Variety reported.

David deRubertis, Mo’Nique’s lawyer, said in a statement obtained by USA Today that the ruling is an “important victory for Hollywood talent who, just like all other workers, need protections against retaliation if they raise concerns about pay discrimination during the hiring process.”