Gabrielle Union filed a discrimination complaint against NBCUniversal and America’s Got Talent producers FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell’s Syco on Thursday after she reported alleged incidents of racism on set, Union’s lawyer confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
Attorney Bryan Freedman said Union filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing regarding her complaints in November 2019 about how she reported a racist joke to producers and was told that her hairstyles were “too Black” for viewers. Now, Union is also saying that NBC Entertainment Chair Paul Telegdy threatened her for speaking out.
Union filed the discrimination complaint one day after NBC released a statement supporting #BlackLivesMatter, saying, “We stand with our Black employees, colleagues, partners, and creators in outrage at acts of racism.”
Freedman said NBC’s statement contradicts Union’s experience, and that when “Gabrielle Union informed NBC of racially offensive conduct during the taping of America’s Got Talent, NBC did not ‘stand’ with her in ‘outrage at acts of racism.’
“Instead, NBC did not care enough to either promptly investigate Ms. Union’s complaints or even ask HR to get involved. Rather, NBC stood against her and directed its ‘outrage’ at Ms. Union for whistleblowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on America’s Got Talent,” Freedman said in a statement. “In sharp contrast to NBC’s recent statement on race, what was truly an ‘outrage’ was the fact that Paul Telegdy, chairman of NBC Entertainment, actually threatened Ms. Union in an attempt to silence her from telling the truth about racist actions that took place on the show.
“There is no place for this type of racial bullying in the workplace, and it is going to take more than a Tweet from NBC to demonstrate that NBC intends to create an environment free from racism.”
Representatives for NBC denied that Telegdy ever threatened the actor.
“The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue,” NBC representatives said in a statement. “We took Ms. Union‘s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show. NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.”
FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
In December 2019, NBC launched a formal investigation into America’s Got Talent after it was announced that Union wouldn’t return to the show as a judge and news of the toxic workplace allegations emerged. SAG-AFTRA also launched an investigation into Union’s departure.
“At the end of all this, my goal is real change and not just on this show but for the larger parent company. It starts from the top down,” Union told Variety in a recent interview about her allegations. “My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”