The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the source of most of our workplace equality laws. Laws relating to fairness in pay and treatment in the workplace stem from EEOC regulations that must be obeyed by all businesses in the country. From the smallest sandwich shop to the biggest corporation, it is illegal to intentionally pay someone less because of who they are. Pay discrimination is one of the most widespread problems in the modern workforce,  and it’s important to fight at every level. However, big companies often think they can get away with EEOC violations just because they are big.

Fortunately, we have stars and spotlight cases to make it clear that no one is above the law. No employer is free to discriminate. This was highlighted very recently when popular comedian Mo’Nique took the video giant Netflix to court over an unfair offer and even less fair negotiation tactics when contracting a comedy special.

A Celebrity Pay Disparity

It is unfortunately well known that women of color face the greatest pay disparity, but we would never expect to see this kind of discrimination against one of our nation’s celebrities.  While the case is only just hitting the courts (and the news) the issue at-hand occured in 2017 when Netflix invited Mo’Nique to negotiations for a comedy special.

Mo’Nique reports that they offered her $500,000 for the special with little room for negotiation. For non-celebrities, this sounds like a pretty good deal, but it’s not when compared to what Netflix has offered to stars for their other comedy specials. Where others are being offered upwards of $10 million (up to $50 million per special), Why the difference? It’s all too sad that the reason becomes clear.

Netflix Refuses to Negotiate Fairly

Like any good businesswoman, Mo’Nique went into her negotiations prepared. She knew what Netflix had offered for other comedy specials and she expected a comparable offer. She expected at least a few million to start negotiations. In comparison to other comedians, the offer of $500,000 with little room to go upward was not just laughable, it was an insult.

As we’ve come to expect from the outspoken comedienne, our heroine spoke out. She pointed out, as part of negotiations, that the offer was far below what she expected and what had been given to other male or white comedians to do their specials. At this point, Netflix doubled down. They made the deal take-or-leave. Mo’Nique took them to court.

What Was the Pay Difference?

In her arguments to the court, Mo’Nique mentioned a few specific other comedians and the money they were given to make their recent comedy specials.

So why was Mo’Nique offered half-a-million instead of upwards of ten, twenty, or more? Why was she not allowed to negotiate higher or question the reasons for low-balling? Because this happened in 2017, we can’t blame the problem on COVID shortages. Now it’s up for the courts to decide whether this was gross mis-negotiation or legal discrimination against a prominent and well-respected woman of color.

The Courts Dismiss Netflix’s Movement to Dismiss

Thursday, July 16, the courts have taken a step toward Mo’Nique’s success. Netflix called a motion to dismiss Mo’Niques lawsuit and the court has shut them down. Mo’Nique continues to speak out against unequal and unfair pay practices and her lawsuit will go forward to highlight Netflix’s unsavory business decisions.

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we cheer cases like this on because we are dedicated to the same kind of courtroom justice. We pour our hearts and hours into helping employees who have been marginalized or mistreated by employers who think they are above the law. As always, we hope that this issue with Netflix is a temporary one, and fairer-minded executives replace those who made this mistake. But if you have found yourself in a similar situation, take Mo’Nique’s example to heart. Speak out, or let us do the speaking out for you.

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