Gabrielle Union filed a complaint Thursday in the state of California against her former employers, NBC and the producers of “America’s Got Talent.”
It’s the former “AGT” judge’s latest move since her departure from the competition series after she reportedly objected to an on-set environment that allegedly tolerated racism and a generally “toxic” work culture.
The complaint filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing says Union, 47, was harassed and discriminated against because of her race, and experienced retaliation for reporting these problems.
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The document enumerates previously reported issues that Union, who is black, had with the show’s acceptance of racist jokes and remarks from judges, and cites criticism she received about her hair during tapings.
“Union, a black woman, was singled out due to her physical appearance and discriminated against by NBC due to the fact that her hair did not fit within the white image that NBC apparently sought to convey to the audience of AGT,” the complaint states, adding that a network executive and a show producer allegedly “informed Union’s manager that her hair was ‘too wild’ and that it needed to be ‘toned down.’”
The complaint also contains new allegations that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy called Union’s agents to issue unspecified threats, shared confidential information on the controversy with celebrities that the show was looking to hire, and sought to undermine an investigation of Union’s issues.
On May 27, NBC and the “AGT” producers said in a statement to Fox News that they took Union’s concerns “extremely seriously” and “conducted more than 30 interviews to review the issues raised by Ms. Union” via an external investigator.
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But that “through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time,” the statement continued. “The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.”
Union’s attorney Bryan Freedman said the “racial bullying” Union received stands in contrast to the network’s recent statements about being outraged by racism and standing with Black Lives Matter.
“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,’” Freedman said in a statement. “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.”
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In a new statement to Fox News on Thursday, NBC said: “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.”
Meanwhile, Union’s husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade, defended his family on social media.
On Thursday he tweeted: “Y’all have deemed her a liar after months of trying to inform y’all of the issues in the work place and also make sure other employees of color that comes after her won’t have the same experiences. Instead of looking thru [sic] the lens of someone who has been an advocate for the black and brown community, for women and for rape victims.”
“So instead of making sure your work environment is a a [sic] better place for everyone. Y’all have decided that she what? Made it all up because she lost a job? She’s a black women in Hollywood she has lost out on many jobs,” Wade continued.
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“When these negotiations started my house started being watched and my family started being followed. My daughter couldn’t even go to swim class without us being trailed by people looking for answers. Well y’all have the answers and y’all still don’t wanna listen to them,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.