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Netflix has settled a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit from Mo’Nique in a case that could have found that the streamer retaliated against the comedian by refusing to engage in good-faith negotiations after she accused the company of discrimination for opening with a low-ball offer.
Both sides on Tuesday moved to dismiss the suit, according to a court filing. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Netflix in 2017 started to court Mo’Nique for a comedy special during a time it was aggressively ramping up its stand-up content, the complaint says. The negotiations, however, didn’t get far because the Oscar-winning actress did not agree to what she considered a low opening offer of $500,000 for a one-hour show that Netflix would have complete control over, including owning the copyright and retaining all audio-only rights to the special. She protested the offer as discriminatory, leading to Netflix walking away from negotiations.
Mo’Nique subsequently sued Netflix for refusing to budge beyond its initial opening offer. She accused the streamer of systematically underpaying Black women, pointing to eight-figure deals with Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Amy Schumer, who allegedly leveraged other comedians’ compensation during negotiations and was paid 26 times more than what Mo’Nique was offered, according to the complaint.
“The offer made to Mo’Nique was merely an ‘opening offer’ from which there was an expectation — both by Netflix and Mo’Nique — of continued negotiations likely leading to increased compensation being offered to Mo’Nique,” read the complaint. “Once Mo’Nique engaged in protected conduct by protesting the discriminatory offer, Netflix shut down any further negotiations and refused to negotiate in good-faith consistent with its standard practices.”
Mo’Nique spoke publicly about the allegedly discriminatory offer, calling to boycott Netflix.
“I couldn’t accept that low offer because if I did … I couldn’t sleep at night,” Mo’Nique said on Sway in the Morning in January 2018. “If I accepted $500,000, what does Tiffany Haddish have coming? If I accept that, what does the Black female comedian have coming? Because what they’ll say is, ‘Mo’Nique accepted this and she’s got that.’ So what do they have coming?”
At the time, Netflix said in a statement, “We believe our opening offer to Mo’Nique was fair — which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit.” On dismissal, Netflix argued that there’s no legal authority supporting the claim that an employer’s refusal to negotiate in good faith constitutes discrimination or retaliation.
But the federal judge overseeing the case sided with Mo’Nique’s novel theory that Netflix’s failure to negotiate an opening offer consistent with its normal practice, which typically leads to increased compensation, constitutes an “adverse employment action for purposes of a retaliation claim.”
“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,” writes the judge.
Said Michael Parks, representing Mo’Nique: “The matter has been amicably resolved.”
Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.
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