In the lawsuit, Mo'Nique claims that she was offered less money for a stand-up special than male and white female comedians

By Helen Murphy
November 14, 2019 03:25 PM
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Mo’Nique, the Oscar-winning actress and comedian, is suing Netflix for racial and gender discrimination.

According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the 51-year-old actress (né Monique Hicks) is accusing the streaming service of offering her less money for a stand-up special than her fellow male or white female comedians. The 39-page lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday.

“We care deeply about inclusion, equity, and diversity and take any accusations of discrimination very seriously. We believe our opening offer to Mo’Nique was fair — which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit,” a spokesperson for Netflix tells PEOPLE.

In the lawsuit, Mo’Nique accuses Netflix of giving her a “biased, discriminatory” offer of a “talent fee” of $500,000 for a stand-up comedy special around November 2017. The lawsuit references numerous other comedians’ offers, including Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer.

According to the lawsuit, she is seeking unspecified damages.

“Despite Mo’Nique’s extensive résumé and documented history of comedic success, when Netflix presented her with an offer of employment for an exclusive stand-up comedy special, Netflix made a lowball offer that was only a fraction of what Netflix paid other (non-Black female) comedians,” the lawsuit says.

Mo’Nique has previously called for a boycott of Netflix over equal pay.

The lawsuit claims that Seinfeld signed a $100 million deal with Netflix in 2017 “which included in part payment for a stand-up special,” and claims that Chappelle signed a deal worth $60 million in 2016 for three specials.

Meanwhile, the lawsuits alleges, Schumer was initially offered $11 million for one stand-up special in 2017, but she eventually increased that amount to $13 million after negotiating with Netflix.

“Thus, Netflix reportedly offered or paid [Chris] Rock, Chappelle, [Ellen DeGeneres], and [Ricky] Gervais forty times more per show than it offered Mo’Nique, and it offered Schumer twenty-six times more per show than Mo’Nique,” the lawsuit said. “In short, Netflix’s offer to Mo’Nique perpetuates the drastic wage gap forced upon Black women in America’s workforce.”

Additionally, Mo’Nique is also claiming in her lawsuit that Netflix lacks diversity.

The comedian alleges that Kevin Spacey was ” reportedly allowed” to use the N-word on the set of House of Cards, and also alleges that Netflix’s then Chief Communications Officer Jonathan Friedland used the N-word in a meeting and then later a second time while recounting the first incident. (Friedland was later fired.)

Mo’Nique’s lawsuit also references The Crown‘s previously reported pay disparity.

“Netflix is one of Hollywood’s most innovative companies, yet it not only perpetuates racial and gender inequality, it also takes advantage of a gender pay gap that disproportionately affects black women,” Mo’Nique’s lawyer, Michael W. Parks, said, according to NBC News. “When Mo’Nique, one of the most well-known black female comedians in America, faced that anachronistic attitude, she knew it was time to challenge the status quo.”