On Thursday, June 4, news broke that Gabrielle Union filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint against NBC Universal, Simon Cowell, and others. The former America's Got Talent judge filed an official harassment, discrimination, and retaliation complaint with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, per Deadline. In addition to Cowell and NBC Universal, she also named Syco Entertainment and Fremantle Productions North America in the filing. The complaint is in regards to the alleged racial discrimination and intimidation that Union claims led to her dismissal from AGT after just one year on the popular NBC competition series.
Bustle reached out to representatives for Union, AGT, Fremantle, and Cowell for comment on the complaint. NBCU released a statement denying any wrongdoing, specifically regarding new allegations that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy tried to "silence and intimidate" her against speaking out about what she allegedly witnessed on set.
"The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue," NBCU said in a statement obtained by Bustle. "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."
In Nov. 2019, a report from Variety revealed that Union's contract with AGT had allegedly not been renewed due to her raising concerns about racial jokes and calling out Simon Cowell for reportedly smoking indoors (which is illegal in the state of California), among other things. The L.A.'s Finest star has since shared that she hoped that by calling out the toxic work environment, she could create change within the company.
However, on May 27, NBC announced that an outside investigation of Union's dismissal found that there was no "racial bias" at play. The report did note that there were "some areas in which reporting processes could be improved," before touting NBC's commitment to creating an "inclusive environment for everyone associated with the show," per The Wrap.
Now Union is fighting back. Her formal complaint includes her claims about the racist jokes on the AGT set, inappropriate comments about her appearance, and Cowell's alleged health violations. It also describes the new allegations against Telegdy.
In his right to sue letter, Union's lawyer Bryan Freedman wrote, "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. Union's agent was shocked that the Chairman of NBC Entertainment was attempting to threaten and intimidate Union." He also noted that Union had not made any formal public statements about her firing at that time (although she had posted on social media in November).
"It thus became clear to Union that Telegdy was not merely attempting to silence Union in the media, but attempting to silence Union from making any further comments to the investigator," the filing continued, per Deadline.
Since her contract with AGT wasn't renewed, Union has maintained that her decision to speak out is about fostering a better work environment at NBC. "At the end of all this, my goal is real change — and not just on this show but for the larger parent company," she said in a May interview with Variety. With an official complaint now on file, the former reality show judge may be one step closer to making her desire for change happen.
Editor's note: this article has been updated to include a statement from NBCU.
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