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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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986