‘America’s Got Talent’: Gabrielle Union Files Harassment Complaint Against Simon Cowell and NBC

Producers of America’s Got Talent have a new accusation against them. This time, Gabrielle Union claims she was threatened for speaking out against racism. The complaint includes Simon Cowell’s production company. Find out more about the complaint.

Gabrielle Union was fired from ‘America’s Got Talent’

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Union wasn’t brought back to judge after season 14. Variety reported she spoke up about racism on set during that season although the incidents were reportedly not brought to human resources against her wishes.

The report also claimed Union received notes about her appearance during the season. One of them was her changing hairstyles were “too Black” for the show’s audience.

Vulture also reported she complained about Cowell smoking indoors because she’s allergic to smoke. Union later claimed in an interview that she became sick because he wouldn’t stop.

NBC ended its investigation

Howie Mandel, Terry Crews, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough on 'America's Got Talent'
Howie Mandel, Terry Crews, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough on ‘America’s Got Talent’ | Trae Patton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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NBC ended its investigation in response to Union’s claims. A rep claimed Fremantle and Syco “immediately engaged an outside investigator who conducted more than 30 interviews to review the issues raised by Ms. Union,” according to Page Six.

“While the investigation has demonstrated an overall culture of diversity, it has also highlighted some areas in which reporting processes could be improved,” the rep claimed. It then went on to deny Union’s claims.

The investigation “revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time.” SAG-AFTRA announced it will have its own investigation, which hasn’t made a ruling.

She filed a harassment complaint

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NBC ending its investigation doesn’t mean everything is over between the parties. Variety reports Union filed a harassment complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Cowell’s Syco, producers FremantleMedia, and NBCUniversal.

Union accused NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy of threatening her for speaking out against racism on set. Her power attorney Bryan Freedman gave a statement about the lawsuit.

It’s very telling that NBC fails to substantively address the DFEH complaint that Ms. Union filed based on racial discrimination.  Instead, NBC wants to try and play word games by saying that their Chairman Paul Telegdy did not directly threaten Gabrielle Union. NBC of course ignores Paragraph 5 of the DFEH complaint which specifically states: On or about February 4, 2020, Telegdy threatened Union through her agent and warned Union’s agent that Union had better cease from pursuing her claims of racism while filming AGT.  To hide behind the fact that Telegdy did not call her directly but her agent instead does not absolve him from his wrongful conduct. Should Mr. Telegdy wish to see phone records or call sheets from the date of his threat, we can make those available for the world to see. It is frankly sad but not surprising that, rather than addressing its own racial discrimination, NBC wants to try and avoid the systemic issues that permeate its company.

Bryan Freedman, Variety

NBC gave a statement in response to these accusations. “The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue,” claimed a spokesperson. “We took Ms. Union‘s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show. NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.”

America’s Got Talent is currently airing season 15 with new judges, Sofia Vergara and Heidi Klum.