Mo’Nique scored a victory in her discrimination lawsuit against Netflix on Thursday when U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. denied the company’s motion for a dismissal in a Los Angeles court.
The comedian and actress announced in November of last year that she filed a suit against Netflix for gender and racial bias, because she was offered a lower amount in 2017 for a comedy special than other comedians who are either white or male.
A California judge has dismissed Netflix’s motion to dismiss Mo’Nique pay discrimination lawsuit against them. (Photo: Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images)The suit alleges that “when Mo’Nique spoke up against what she believed was a discriminatory offer, Netflix responded retaliatory by refusing to negotiate in good faith with her.” Netflix sought to dismiss the suit in an argument Birotte characterized as “Netflix argues that the novelty of Mo’Nique’s claim and the absence of on-point legal authority for it should bar her retaliation claims outright.”
Birotte ruled that the unusual nature of Mo’Nique’s claim should not bar her lawsuit from going forward at this point. “Regardless of whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail on [her] claims, dismissing this case under Rule 12(b)(6) is not appropriate,” said Birotte in his decision. “Plaintiff’s complaint may raise a novel issue, but that does not justify dismissing it at this stage.”
Mo’Nique’s lawyer, David deRubertis, responded to the judge’s decision on Thursday, July 16, in a statement and said it’s not only a win for his client but for others.
“Today’s ruling is an important victory for Hollywood talent who, just like all other workers, need protections against retaliation if they raise concerns about pay discrimination during the hiring process,” deRubertis stated.
“Employers in the entertainment industry need to take pay discrimination concerns seriously, fix them if the concerns have merit, and never retaliate against those who have the courage to speak up about equal pay,” he added.
The relationship between Mo’Nique and Netflix turned sour in 2017 after she accused the company of offering her $500,000 for her comedy special, while comedian Amy Schumer was offered $11 million for a special that same year. Fox News reports that Schumer was paid $13 million after negotiating.
The suit also alleges that comedian Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock were offered $40 million apiece by Netflix for two comedy specials around 2016.
Court documents further state that Dave Chappelle was paid $60 million for three stand-up specials, while Jerry Seinfeld walked away with a $100 million payday for two specials of his series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
Before filing the suit, Mo’Nique called for a boycott of Netflix in January 2018 and received support and criticism.
Comedian Kym Whitley didn’t seem to care for the boycott, and in a 2018 interview with Essence said that Mo’Nique should be fighting just as hard to solve issues that plague the Black community.
“You gotta show that you’re fighting for other causes, not just your pocketbook,” Whitley explained. “You gotta be fighting on Twitter and talking about police brutality, Trump or whatever issues you need to be passionate about.”
Tiffany Haddish also spoke of the boycott in 2018 with GQ and said, “I’m not gonna protest because somebody got offered not the amount of money they wanted to get offered.”
But other celebrities, including Jada Pinkett Smith, stood up for the Baltimore native and seemingly agreed with the boycott.
“You don’t have to like Mo’Nique’s approach,” tweeted the “Set It Off” star almost two years ago. “You don’t have to agree with her boycott but don’t allow all of that to make you blind to the fact that non-white women and impoverished white women are underpaid, underrepresented and undervalued EVERYWHERE by EVERYONE.”
Mo’Nique made the announcement about her suit on Instagram and said she filed it not only for herself but for those in entertainment who preceded her.
“I had a choice to make: 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,” she wrote last year. “I chose to stand up.”