Gabrielle Monique Union Wade, 47, who is professionally known as Gabrielle Union, recently sued the producers and network behind “America’s Got Talent.” Created by Simon Cowell, the show airs on NBC and is distributed by Fremantle USA.
“AGT” is produced by Fremantle USA and Syco Entertainment. Union served as a judge in the 14th season of the show, which aired from May 28, 2019 to September 18, 2019 with Terry Crews as the host.
On June 4, 2020, Union filed a harassment complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) via power attorney Bryan Freedman. Named in the complaint were Syco Entertainment, FremantleMedia and NBCUniversal.
Also known as SYCO, Syco Entertainment was established by Cowell. He and Sony Music own the entertainment company, which has headquarters in London, England and in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Along with Cowell and Union, Howie Mandel and Julianne Hough also served as “AGT” Season 14 judges. The guest judges were Brad Paisley, Ellie Kemper, Queen Latifah, Sean Hayes, Jay Leno and Union’s husband Dwyane Wade.
Union claimed that while she was on “AGT” Season 14, she was harassed and discriminated against because she was African-American. She had reported these problems and experienced retaliation for doing so, she claimed.
“Union, a black woman, was singled out due to her physical appearance and discriminated against by NBC due to the fact that her hair did not fit within the white image that NBC apparently sought to convey to the audience of ‘AGT,” the complaint stated. It also said a network executive and a show producer informed her manager that her hair was “too wild” so it needed to be “toned down.”
In December 2019, Union raised around 60 issues she faced a judge on “AGT” Season 14. In the complaint she recently filed, she accused NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy of calling her agents to issue unspecified threats over speaking out against racism on set.
“We took Ms. Union‘s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show,” a spokesperson for NBC told ABC News. “NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.”
According to Union, she had complained about Cowell’s smoking on her first day on “AGT” Season 14. She said the producers acknowledged that the same complaints had been made in the past but the problem was never solved.
“I ended up staying sick for two months straight,” Union told Variety. “It was a cold that lingered and turned into bronchitis because I couldn’t shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job.”