LOS ANGELES — Oscar-winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique sued Netflix on Thursday, accusing the streaming giant of racial and gender discrimination by trying to drastically underpay her for a stand-up special after offering other stars tens of millions of dollars.
The suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court accuses Netflix of giving a “biased, discriminatory” offer to Mo’Nique for a one-hour comedy special around November 2017.
In the 39-page filing, Mo’Nique calls out everyone from the top executives of the Netflix management team to highlighting the gender wage gap and lack of diversity in Hollywood.
“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,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and was filed on her behalf by attorneys at the deRubertis Law Firm, APC and Schimmel & Parks, APLC.
The comedian was offered $500,000 as a “talent fee,” an offer the lawsuit claims was significantly less than those offered to men and white women for the same type of stand-up original specials.
“When the talent was not a Black woman, Netflix offered to pay, and did pay, astronomically more than it pays to Black women like it offered to Mo’Nique,” the lawsuit said.
A Netflix spokesperson did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. They have previously declined to address Mo’Nique’s complaints, saying “Netflix does not comment on contract negotiations.”
The suit said Netflix reportedly signed a $100 million deal in 2017 with comedian Jerry Seinfeldfor two stand-up specials and an interview series. It also said Netflix reportedly signed a deal with comedian Dave Chapelle in 2016 worth $60 million in 2016 for three specials.
Chris Rock was reportedly offered a $40 million deal with Netflix in 2016 for two specials, the lawsuit said, and Ricky Gervais was reportedly also offered $40 million for a two-show deal around 2016.
The lawsuit goes on to allege Netflix initially offered comedian Amy Schumer $11 million in 2017 for an hourlong special and that she was able to negotiate an increase to $13 million over the offers made to Chapelle and Rock.
“Thus, Netflix reportedly offered or paid Rock, Chapelle, Degeneris, and 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,” the lawsuit said. “In short, Netflix’s offer to Mo’Nique perpetuates the drastic wage gap forced upon Black women in America’s workforce.”
The lawsuit claims that Netflix lacked diversity in its leadership and reportedly turned a blind eye or did not act quickly enough when a senior executive and an actor in a series used racist language.
The filing claims Netflix’s Board of Directors has “historically lacked racial diversity and, instead, has been white-only for years. For years, the Board lacked even one Black member — let alone, a Black female” and highlights “in 2018 and 2019 respectively, Netflix reported that only 4% and 6% of its workforce being comprised of Black employees. In other words, while its senior management specifically lacks racial diversity, Netflix’s workforce generally also underrepresents Black workers compared to the general population.”
Netflix reportedly allowed actor Kevin Spacey to repeatedly make racist remarks, including using the N-word, while he worked on its series “House of Cards,” according to the lawsuit.