Gabrielle Union Files Discrimination Complaint Against America's Got Talent Producers

Gabrielle Union files a discrimination complaint against "America's Got Talent" producers, as the controversy surrounding the show continues

By Cydney Contreras Jun 04, 2020 10:34 PMTags
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Gabrielle Union has filed a complaint against the producers and network behind America's Got Talent.

According to a statement from Union's attorney Bryan Freedman, which was received by Variety and People, the actress filed a harassment complaint against FremantleMedia, Simon Cowell's Syco and NBCUniversal with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Variety reports that Freedman alleges that the aforementioned companies were told about "racially offensive conduct during the taping of ‘America's Got Talent,'" but did not act to address them.

"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 while working for NBC on ‘America's Got Talent'," the statement reads. 

It's also alleged that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy threatened Union when she spoke out about the racism she allegedly experienced on the AGT set, although the nature of the threat wasn't disclosed.  

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In reference to NBC Entertainment's recent tweet standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, Freedman concluded, "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."

As for the content of the actual harassment complaint, Union's legal team detailed numerous instances that she found to be insensitive or offensive, including the hiring of former judge Julianne Hough, according to legal documents exclusively obtained by Page Six. The filing notes that Hough previously wore blackface, which she apologized for. Nonetheless, the legal team claims that bringing Hough on as a judge is "a reflection of NBC's true feelings about the African American community and blackface."

The filing also highlighted NBC's history of stars in blackface, including Jimmy Fallon, Fred Armisen and Ted Danson, and noted that the network has been "completely silent and unapologetic" since these controversies were ignited.


"Who is NBC ‘standing by' here and where is the ‘outrage?' The reasons for NBC's silence and failure to take remedial and/or disciplinary action against Fallon is that Fallon brings high television ratings to NBC, which in turn, generates revenue for NBC. Time after time NBC has chosen corporate profits over doing the right thing and taking meaningful action to eradicate racism on its own network," was written in the complaint according to Page Six

However, NBC did fire Megyn Kelly after she defended blackface.

Other instances of harassment that were listed included that allegation that Simon Cowell was allowed to smoke in the building despite rules and regulations, leading Gabrielle to believe NBC had "different rules for white males." 

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In a statement to E! News, NBCUniversal stated, "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."

This filing comes on the heels of the conclusion of an independent investigation into alleged circumstances of racism and discrimination at America's Got Talent conducted after Union's claims. On May 27, the network and show producers released a statement: "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 investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract."

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In addition, they concluded, "NBC, Fremantle and Syco share Ms. Union's dedication to diversity and inclusion in the industry. We continue to remain committed to having an inclusive environment for everyone associated with the show, and to upholding AGT as one of the most diverse programs on television."

And today, AGT host Terry Crews once again apologized to Gabrielle for not supporting her when she voiced her concerns about the show. He previously stated that he didn't share her beliefs on the show's environment. Nonetheless, he said, "It was never my intention to invalidate your experience."

Now, he's once again declaring that he stands with Union. "I want to make further amends with Black women, and in particular @itsgabrielleu for not recognizing the privilege I have—especially in the workplace- and adding this fact to my earlier apology," he said in part. 


Gabrielle has not responded to Crews' latest statement, although she told Variety last week she will "always defend him."

"At the end of all this, my goal is real change—and not just on this show but for the larger parent company. It starts from the top down," Union shared. "My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace."

(E! News and NBC Entertainment are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)