LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mo’Nique sued Netflix on Thursday for race and sex discrimination in its offer for a proposed comedy special, accusing the streaming service of giving her a lowball offer that was part of a larger company tendency to underpay black women.
The comedian and Oscar-winning actress says Netflix officials were effusive in their praise of her work before they offered her $500,000 in early 2018 for a comedy special and refused to negotiate further.
The suit says that stands in contrast to deals reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars for comedy specials from Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Chapelle and Ricky Gervais, and that the streaming service was willing to negotiate with other comics.
She called for a boycott of Netflix a week after the deal fell through in January 2018 and has been publicly critical of the company since.
Netflix denied the lawsuit’s main allegations in a statement.
"We care deeply about inclusion, equity, and diversity and take any accusations of discrimination very seriously,” the statement said. “We believe our opening offer to Mo'Nique was fair — which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit.”
The suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Netflix violated California’s fair employment and civil rights laws and is representative of the major pay inequity in all employment for black women.
“I had a choice to make,” Mo’Nique said in a post on her Instagram account after the suit was filed. “I could accept what I felt was pay discrimination or I could stand up for those who came before me and those who will come after me. I chose to stand up.”
The suit claims Netflix has a corporate culture that tolerates racial insensitivity and impropriety, lacks diversity and underpays women and minorities. It cites the revelation last year that actor Matt Smith was paid more for his supporting role on Netflix’s “The Crown” than actress Claire Foy was paid to play the title role.
And it alleges that Netflix’s refusal to deal with Mo’Nique, shutting her out of what has become an essential home for comedy specials, amounts to retaliation.
The 51-year-old whose real name is Monique Angela Hicks first gained fame as one of stand-up’s Queens of Comedy, and starred in the UPN series “The Parkers.” She won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance in the 2009 film, “Precious.”