Mo’Nique, Netflix Settle Gender & Racial Discrimination Lawsuit
The comedian Mo’Nique has settled with Netflix in what could have been a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit, according to Law360 and Deadline.
Both sides on Tuesday, June 14, moved to dismiss the suit, and the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Originally in 2017, Netflix started to court the Oscar-winner for a comedy special during a time when it was aggressively ramping up its stand-up content.
Negotiations, however, didn’t get too far because Mo’Nique did not agree to what she considered a low opening offer of $500,000 for a one-hour show that Netflix would have complete control over, including owning the copyright and retaining all audio-only rights to the special.
She would go on to protest the offer as discriminatory, leading to Netflix walking away from negotiations.
Almost immediately after that moment, Mo’Nique sued Netflix for refusing to budge beyond its initial opening offer. Furthermore, she doubled down on her accusations, saying that the behemoth streamer also underpays Black women, pointing to eight-figure deals by Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Amy Schumer, who allegedly leveraged other comedians’ compensations during negotiations and were paid 26 times more than what Mo’Nique was offered, according to the complaint.
“The offer made to Mo’Nique was merely an ‘opening offer’ from which there was an expectation – both by Netflix and Mo’Nique – of continued negotiations likely leading to increased compensation being offered to Mo’Nique,” read the complaint. “Once Mo’Nique engaged in protected conduct by protesting the discriminatory offer, Netflix shut down any further negotiations and refused to negotiate in good faith consistent with its standard practices.”
Mo’Nique spoke publicly about the allegedly discriminatory offer, calling to boycott Netflix.
“I couldn’t accept that low offer because if I did … I couldn’t sleep at night,” Mo’Nique said. “If I accepted $500,000, what does Tiffany Haddish have coming? If I accept that, what does the Black female comedian have coming? Because what they’ll say is, ‘Mo’Nique accepted this and she’s got that.’ So what do they have coming?”
At the time, Netflix said in a statement, “We believe our opening offer to Mo’Nique was fair – which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit.” On dismissal, Netflix argued that there’s no legal authority supporting the claim that an employer’s refusal to negotiate in good faith constitutes discrimination or retaliation.
The federal judge presiding over the case agreed with Mo’Nique’s novel theory that Netflix’s failure to negotiate an opening offer consistent with its normal practice, which typically leads to increased compensation, constitutes an “adverse employment action for purposes of a retaliation claim.”
“At the very least, Mo’Nique’s allegations permit the plausible inference that, had she not challenged her offer as discriminatory, Netflix would have continued negotiating in good faith with her and increased her offer, consistent with its customary practice in dealing with talent in the entertainment industry,” writes the judge.
Michael Parks, representing Mo’Nique, said that “the matter has been amicably resolved.”
Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.