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Gabrielle Union Files Discrimination Complaint Against America's Got Talent Producers and NBC

The actress claims she was harassed for whistle-blowing about offensive conduct on set

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Update 6/4/2020: Gabrielle Union has filed a harassment complaint in the state of California and the producers and network of America's Got Talent. She alleges that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy threatened her about publicly speaking out against racism on set, Variety reports. 

Union's attorney, Bryan Freedman, said in a statement, "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 whistle-blowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on America's Got Talent."

In regards to Telegdy, Freedman says NBC's Entertainment Chairman, "threatened Ms. Union in an attempt to silence her from telling the truth about racist actions that took place on the show."

NBC has responded to the accusation, calling it "categorically untrue."

"The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue," NBC said in a statement to Deadline. "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."

Update 05/27/2020: Gabrielle Union has now opened up about her firing fromAmerica's Got Talentand the circumstances which led to her formal complaints about the show's allegedly toxic environment to NBC. In a new interview with Variety, the actress and activist elaborated on a number of issues including Jay Leno's tasteless joke, which was perceived as insulting to Asian people, a noticeable disparity in the way the hair and makeup department treated certain contestants, her hairstyles being deemed "too black," and Simon Cowell's smoking on set which Union said made her ill. 

"I couldn't escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight. It was a cold that lingered and turned into bronchitis because I couldn't shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job," she told Variety. "It was challenging to tend to my illness without being made to feel like I'm responsible for my own sickness. It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult when I'm asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to."

Union went on to address other topics, like the efforts NBCUniversal and Comcast are making to ensure a better work environment for everyone. "There are so many people who are committed to making NBCUniversal and Comcast different, who truly want to be a part of the solution and on the right side of history," she said. "In the same breath, there are some people who want the wheels of change to come to a grinding halt because they feel that their privilege is being challenged."
Read the full interview here

Previously 12/01/19: After Gabrielle Union posted a heartfelt Twitter message thanking her fans for their support after she was reportedly fired as a judge on NBC's hit competition series America's Got Talent, NBC and Freemantle released an updated statement saying they are working with Union through her representatives to resolve the situation.

"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate," the statement reads. 

The actress had previously thanked fans for their support, writing, "So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever."

Union received widespread support on social media after Variety reported that NBC decided not to renew the contracts of Union and fellow judge Julianne Hough. In Variety's report, sources said that Union took issue with the "toxic culture" at the show. Sources told Variety that Union was criticized for her hairstyles being "too black" for America's Got Talent's audience. Variety also detailed an incident in which Union urged producers to make a report to human resources about a joke made by guest judge Jay Leno that disparaged Asian people.

Vulture reported that Union's efforts to cast a 10-year-old black rapper were rebuffed because producers wanted a contestant "America could get behind." A white high-kicking group was chosen instead. Vulture also reported that Union had also taken issue with Simon Cowell allegedly smoking in doors, but her complaint was ignored.

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The network and series producer Fremantle previously released a shared statement to TV Guide and other outlets, which read: "America's Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT's enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously."

Among the people coming to Union's defense on social media are pop star Ariana Grande, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, the latter of whom posted several scathing tweets criticizing NBC. "It's unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it...has not changed their practices or culture. I support @itsgabrielleu commitment to speaking up to injustice," Pompeo wrote. "It takes courage."

She also called on white women to stand beside women of color on feminist and social justice issues. "Workplace cultures will continue to be toxic until there is unity and solidarity among all women," she wrote. "If you go for self in these moments you undermine the work we are out here trying to do. Obviously this network feels like they can operate like this and it's okay."

Union's husband, basketball player Dwyane Wade, also responded to Union's firing on Twitter. "When I got the news that my wife was being fired -- my first question was obviously shy!? I am still waiting on a good answer to that question," he tweeted. "But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her, you know she's an advocate for our community and culture." He went on to call her the "Number 1 judge on one of the biggest shows in the world," and praised her for "not losing sight of the lessons we've talked about teaching our daughter."

Black lives matter. Text DEMANDS to 55156 to sign Color of Change's petition to reform policing, and visit blacklivesmatter.carrd.co for more ways to donate, sign petitions, and protest safely.