After a three-year legal battle, streaming entertainment giant Netflix has decided to settle a lawsuit brought by comedian Mo’Nique over discrimination and retaliation.
Back in 2019, the Oscar-winning actress sued Netflix, accusing it of systematically underpaying Black women. She also claimed Netflix retaliated against her by refusing to engage in good-faith negotiations after she accused the company of discrimination for making her a low-ball offer.
On June 14, both sides decided to dismiss the lawsuit, according to a court filing. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.
The fight began in 2017 when Netflix approached Mo’Nique for a one-hour comedy special and presented her an opening offer of $500,000. Mo’Nique felt Netflix was low-balling her in comparison to what other non-Black female comedians have been paid for Netflix specials. The company also wanted complete control including owning the copyright and retaining all audio-only rights to the special, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Mo’Nique fired back that the offer was discriminatory, leading to Netflix walking away from negotiations. She took her complaints about the negotiations public before filing a lawsuit. Mo’Nique called for her fans and others to boycott Netflix.
“I couldn’t accept that low offer because if I did … I couldn’t sleep at night,” Mo’Nique said on “Sway in the Morning” in January 2018. “If I accepted $500,000, what does Tiffany Haddish have coming? If I accept that, what does the Black female comedian have coming? Because what they’ll say is, ‘Mo’Nique accepted this, and she’s got that.’ So what do they have coming?”
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In the lawsuit, Mo’Nique pointed to eight-figure deals Netflix made with Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Amy Schumer, who was paid 26 times more than what Mo’Nique was offered, according to the complaint.
“Netflix reportedly offered or paid Rock, [Dave] Chappelle, [Ellen] Degeneres, and [Ricky] Gervais forty (40) times more per show than it offered Mo’Nique, and it offered Schumer twenty-six (26) times more per show than Mo’Nique. In short, Netflix’s offer to Mo’Nique perpetuates the drastic wage gap forced upon Black women in America’s workforce,” the lawsuit stated.
A California judge allowed the lawsuit to proceed in 2020, and the federal judge overseeing the case sided with Mo’Nique’s novel theory that Netflix’s failure to negotiate an opening offer consistent with its normal practice, which typically leads to increased compensation, constitutes an “adverse employment action for purposes of a retaliation claim,” Page Six reported.
“At the very least, Mo’Nique’s allegations permit the plausible inference that, had she not challenged her offer as discriminatory, Netflix would have continued negotiating in good faith with her and increased her offer, consistent with its customary practice in dealing with talent in the entertainment industry,” wrote the judge.
Mo’Nique’s lawyer said, “The matter has been amicably resolved.”
Photo: Comedian and actress Mo’Nique arrives at “The View” to talk about her call for a boycott of Netflix, New York, Feb. 22, 2018. (Rainmaker Photo/MediaPunch/IPX)