Comedian Mo’Nique’s lawsuit against Netflix alleging gender and race discrimination won a major victory on Thursday as a federal judge ruled that the lawsuit can go forward and Netflix’s attempt to get it dismissed was denied.
What We Know:
- In November, Mo’Nique sued Netflix for race and sex discrimination in its offer for a proposed comedy special, accusing the streaming service of giving her a lowball offer that was part of a larger company tendency to underpay black women. The comedian and Oscar-winning actress says Netflix officials were enthusiastic in their praise of her work before they offered her $500,000 in early 2018 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 Chappelle, and Ricky Gervais, and that the streaming service was willing to negotiate with other comics.
- The decision in the Central District Court in California ruled Thursday that she “plausibly” alleged the streaming giant illegally retaliated when she rejected a “lowball” offer to do a comedy special. The decision, by U.S District Judge Andre Birotte Jr., notes that 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.
- “…Regardless of whether the 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’s lawyer, David deRubertis, said in a statement that Netflix sought to convince the court that shutting down “good-faith negotiations because she raised concerns about pay discrimination is not retaliation under the law”. “The court disagreed,” deRubertis said. “Today’s ruling is an important victory for Hollywood talent who, just like all other workers, need protection against retaliation if they raise concerns about pay discrimination during the hiring process.”
Netflix did not immediately comment on the court’s ruling. In a statement last year, Netflix said the company takes accusations of discrimination very seriously and would fight Mo’Nique’s lawsuit, describing their opening offer to her as fair.