NeNe Leakes Sues Bravo and Andy Cohen for Alleged Racist and Hostile Work Environment: Reports

NeNe Leakes also reportedly claimed in her lawsuit that former RHOA costar Kim Zolciak-Biermann made racist comments for years but never faced consequences

Nene Leakes
NeNe Leakes. Photo: Bravo

NeNe Leakes is accusing Bravo, Andy Cohen and The Real Housewives of Atlanta production companies of racism and a hostile work environment in a new lawsuit.

In Leakes' complaint filed in an Atlanta federal court, the reality star, 54, names the network, Cohen, 53, NBCUniversal and RHOA production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original as defendants, per the Associated Press.

"NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated — if not, encouraged," the filing alleges, according to THR.

Leakes also claims her former costar and friend Kim Zolciak-Biermann, 43, made racist comments for years, however, Leakes was the one who was punished after telling executives. Leakes alleges that executives "did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior" but instead gave her a spinoff, referencing Zolciak-Biermann's Don't Be Tardy, which aired on Bravo for eight seasons.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 14: Kim Zolciak-Biermann and Nene Leakes attend the Ultimate Women's Expo at Cobb Galleria on November 14, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images)
Robin L Marshall/Getty

"From the day the series began filming, NeNe was the target of systemic racism from co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, which was tolerated by Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen and other executives," Leakes' lawyer David deRubertis said in a statement to THR.

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DeRubertis did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for additional comment.

The lawsuit says during season 5, Zolciak-Biermann made "racially offensive and stereotypical" remarks about costar Kandi Burruss' new home, referring to her neighborhood as "ghetto," the Associated Press reports. Leakes alleges that later that year, Zolciak-Biermann also used the N-word when talking about Leakes and other costars.

Zolciak-Biermann is not named in the lawsuit.

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NeNe Leakes. Cassidy Sparrow/Getty Images

"NeNe and Kim have been fine for a while now," a source close to production tells PEOPLE. "Kim isn't sure where all this is coming from."

A rep for Zolciak-Biermann did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Leakes also accused the network of trying to stop her from being vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement, which rose to new heights as she was negotiating her contract ahead of RHOA's 13th season, according to THR.

RELATED VIDEO: Bravo Reacts to NeNe Leakes' RHOA Exit: 'Maybe One Day She'll Hold the Peach Again'

"As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our nation, Mrs. Leakes — Bravo's historically most successful Black female talent — should have been embraced by NBC, Bravo, and True," the complaint says, per THR. "Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the 'house she built,' denying her a regular role."

Leakes is alleging the defendants violated federal employment and anti-discrimination laws and is suing for an unspecified amount to be decided upon during trial.

Joe Habachy, a second attorney for Leakes, said in an email statement to THR that "not a day goes by that NeNe doesn't wake up with an onslaught of overwhelming emotions as a direct result of these unfortunate and avoidable occurrences."

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Leakes starred in RHOA from its debut season in 2008 through season 7. She was a part-time costar for the show's 8th season before returning to full-time status in seasons 10 through 12. She officially left the show after its 12th season in 2020. During her time with Bravo, she also starred in a spinoff I Dream of Nene: The Wedding, which featured the days leading up to her second wedding to husband Gregg Leakes in 2013.

Reps for Nene did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. Bravo and Cohen declined to comment.

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