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Netflix and Mo'Nique Settle Pay Discrimination Lawsuit

Mo'Nique accused the streamer of underpaying Black women for comedy specials.
  • Mo'Nique (Photo: Dee Cercone/Everett Collection)
    Mo'Nique (Photo: Dee Cercone/Everett Collection)

    Oscar-winning actress and comedy star Mo'Nique has settled with Netflix in her 2019 lawsuit over racial and pay discrimination. The suit was dismissed mutually on Tuesday, according to a court filing obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, but the details of the settlement have not been revealed.

    The case surrounds negotiations for a 2017 Netflix comedy special that Mo'Nique was in talks to headline. Mo'Nique claims she was offered $500,000 for a one-hour stand-up special but did not agree to the terms because she felt the offer was too low and discriminatory. The proposed deal between the comedian and the streamer would give Netflix full control over copyrights, including all audio-only rights to the special. After Mo'Nique disputed the $500,000 offer, Netflix stopped negotiations, prompting Mo'Nique to sue the streamer for refusing to consider any other offers.

    According to her 2019 lawsuit, "Netflix's treatment of Mo'Nique began with a discriminatory low-ball offer and ended with a blacklisting act of retaliation." Mo'Nique's complaint also claimed that Netflix systemically underpays Black women; she compared her low offer to higher-paying deals with other comedians, including Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Ellen DeGeneres, and Amy Schumer. The complaint stated Schumer, a white woman, was paid 26 times more than Mo'Nique's initial offer.

    "The offer Netflix made Mo'Nique wreaked [sic] of discrimination; it perpetuated the pay gap suffered by Black women," the complaint read.

    The complaint went on to say there "was an expectation" by both Netflix and Mo'Nique that the first offer was "merely an 'opening offer'" that would open the doors to "continued negotiations likely leading to increased compensation" for Mo'Nique. "Once Mo'Nique engaged in protected conduct by protesting the discriminatory offer," the complaint stated, "Netflix shut down any further negotiations and refused to negotiate in good-faith consistent with its standard practices."

    Netflix released a statement at the time, saying, "We care deeply about inclusion, equity, and diversity and take any accusations of discrimination very seriously." However, the streamer defended its intentions to fight the lawsuit, adding, "We believe our opening offer to Mo'Nique was fair."

    In July 2020, a federal judge ultimately sided with Mo'Nique and allowed the case to proceed. "At the very least, Mo’Nique's allegations permit the plausible inference that, had she not challenged her offer as discriminatory, Netflix would have continued negotiating in good faith with her and increased her offer, consistent with its customary practice in dealing with talent in the entertainment industry," ruled the judge.

    Although the settlement amount was not disclosed, Michael Parks, a representative for Mo’Nique., aid, "The matter has been amicably resolved."

    Primetimer has reached out to Netflix for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.

    Kirstie Renae is a writer, blogger, and Austin-based actress with a penchant for binge-watching TV with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter @KirstieRenae.

    TOPICS: Mo'Nique, Netflix