Journalist Yashar Ali was the first to report that after months of attempting to negotiate with NBC Universal on their cultural/workplace issues, former America’s Got Talent judge Gabrielle Union has filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against NBC Universal, Fremantle Media, Simon Cowell and his company SYCO. Reportedly, Gabrielle will be filing a separate suit against Simon as well. According to Variety, DFEH complaints are often precursors to lawsuits.
Gabrielle’s attorney Bryan Freedman sent a statement out to reporters alleging that the Chairman of NBC Entertainment Paul Telegdy threatened Gabrielle in an attempt to silence her from telling the truth about racist actions that took place on the series:
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. Unions 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.
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 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.
The statement’s sarcastic scare quotes are mocking the network’s social media posts from Tuesday in support of Blackout Day, in which the entertainment community stood in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
— NBC Entertainment (@nbc) June 1, 2020
In a Variety cover story last week, Gabrielle spoke out for the first time about her experiences with on set racism at AGT. She noted a lack of accountability from all parties. In response, the producers revealed initial findings of their investigation into Gabrielle’s complaints. They concluded that found areas that could be improved, but did not discover any racial bias.
UPDATE: NBC responds in a statement:
The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue. 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: Gabrielle responds to NBC’s response:
It’s very telling that NBC fails to substantively address the DFEH complaint that Ms. Union filed based on racial discrimination. Instead, NBC wants to try and play word games by saying that their Chairman Paul Telegdy did not directly threaten Gabrielle Union. NBC of course ignores Paragraph 5 of the DFEH complaint which specifically states: On or about February 4, 2020, Telegdy threatened Union through her agent and warned Union’s agent that Union had better cease from pursuing her claims of racism while filming AGT. To hide behind the fact that Telegdy did not call her directly but her agent instead does not absolve him from his wrongful conduct. Should Mr. Telegdy wish to see phone records or call sheets from the date of his threat, we can make those available for the world to see. It is frankly sad but not surprising that, rather than addressing its own racial discrimination, NBC wants to try and avoid the systemic issues that permeate its company.