Mo'Nique has secured a huge legal win.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a California judge announced Thursday that Mo'Nique's discrimination against Netflix can move forward. The Oscar-winning actress/comedian is accusing the streaming giant of presenting a "racially and gender biased offer" during talks for a potential project.
In 2019, Mo'Nique claimed Netflix tried to underpay her for a 2017 comedy special, for which she would be paid $500,000—considerably less than what male and white female comedians had received for their Netflix stand-ups. The suit alleges the media company refused to go beyond the opening offer, which was typically done for other big-name comedians. Amy Schumer reportedly negotiated a $2 million increase for her 2017 special, while Chris Rock was offered $40 million for two specials in 2016 and Dave Chapelle racked in $60 million for three specials that same year.
"Netflix is one of Hollywood’s most innovative companies, yet it not only perpetuates racial and gender inequality, it also takes advantage of a gender pay gap that disproportionately affects Black women, who nationwide make only 61 cents for every dollar white males bring home," Mo'Nique's lawyer, Michael W. Parks, said in a statement last year. "When Mo’Nique, one of the most well-known Black female comedians in America, faced that anachronistic attitude, she knew it was time to challenge the status quo."
The lawsuit also states that after Mo'Nique publicly criticized Netflix for the low-ball offer, the company retaliated "by refusing to negotiate in good faith with her."
U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. was persuaded by the plaintiff's argument and rejected Netflix's motion to dismiss.
"Mo'Nique plausibly alleges that, after she spoke out and called her initial offer discriminatory, Netflix retaliated against her by shutting down its standard practice of negotiating in good faith that typically results in increased monetary compensation beyond the 'opening offer' and denying her increased compensation as a result," the judge said in the ruling. "Accordingly, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that Netflix's alleged failure to negotiate and increase her 'opening offer' by straying from its standard practice are employment actions that are 'reasonably likely to adversely and materially affect an employee's … opportunity for advancement in … her career.'"
Mo'Nique's other attorney David deRubertis applauded the ruling, which will allow the case to go through the discovery process.
"Today's ruling is an important victory for Hollywood talent who, just like all other workers, need protections against retaliation if they raise concerns about pay discrimination during the hiring process," he said. "Employers in the entertainment industry need to take pay discrimination concerns seriously, fix them if the concerns have merit, and never retaliate against those who have the courage to speak up about equal pay."
Netflix has yet to publicly comment on Judge Birotte's decision.