‘American Idol’ Discrimination Suit Moves Forward

Luchina Fisher, Yahoo! News, September 23, 2013

As “American Idol” begins its 13th season with a new judges’ panel, new producers and a whole new slew of hopefuls, the show’s business practices are under scrutiny as a discrimination lawsuit filed by 10 black former contestants continues to wind its way to court.

The plaintiffs, all of whom were disqualified from the show over six seasons for reasons other than singing–including criminal history–were recently issued notices of “right to sue” by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, allowing the 429-page lawsuit they filed in July to move forward.

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The lawsuit argues that producers over the course of 10 years have practiced a pattern of racial discrimination that stems from using black male contestants’ arrest history against them. The suit points out that 31 percent of all “American Idol” semi-finalists who were black males were disqualified for reasons “unrelated to their singing talent.” Moreover, the lawsuit adds that, over the course of 10 years, “there has never been a single white (or non-black) contestant disqualified from ‘American Idol’–not ever.”

FOX and the show’s producers have denied any discrimination, pointing out that 33 percent of, or four out of the past 12, winners, including last year’s Candice Glover, have been black or biracial.

In their May response to the EEOC obtained by ABC News, “Idol” producers say there is no evidence that “the particular disqualification of these specific individuals (the plaintiffs) had anything to do with their race.”

But the plaintiffs have cleared the first hurdle–all employee discrimination claims must first go through the EEOC–in pursuing their case. Because more than five months had passed since the plaintiffs first filed charges of racial discrimination with the EEOC in January, the government commission automatically issued the right-to-sue letters, allowing the plaintiffs to pursue the lawsuit in court.

In order to prove that the show discriminated against the young men after asking about their arrest history, the plaintiffs must first prove that they were employees of the show, since asking an employee or employee applicant about previous arrests–and not convictions–is a violation of California law.

“American Idol” has repeatedly denied that the plaintiffs were employees.

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ABC News has obtained documents of one of the plaintiffs, Corey Clark, which refer to him as an “employee,” as well as paystubs that show he was paid wages in line with the television union’s contract with the show.

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Clark was disqualified from the show in season two with nine contestants remaining after producers said he was less than forthcoming about a previous battery arrest involving his younger sister and police. According to his attorney, Clark did disclose the arrest to producers during the Hollywood round. Two of the charges were later dropped and Clark took a plea to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge.

{snip}

All of the plaintiffs who made it past initial auditions and were given a “golden ticket” to Hollywood were then required to disclose their arrest history and were subject to a background check conducted by the show, the plaintiffs’ suit states. Plaintiffs who objected to signing any of the forms were threatened with being expelled from the show, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs contend that any adverse findings were then illegally disseminated to the media and later used by the show’s producers to humiliate them in a “highly visible public forum” on the show.

The plaintiffs go on to say that the show “implemented a systemic, long-standing practice of publicly humiliating Black contestants through pre-scripted public disqualifications based on criminal record history, while at the same time championing the advancement of White contestants whose criminal records were far more egregious.”

The show’s producers argued that they use background checks to insure that contestants who may become finalists have no legal entanglements that might “interfere” with or “embarrass” the show. In their response to the EEOC, producers said their biggest concern with a contestant’s arrest history was not having that person available because of pending legal matters.

The response also pointed out that 31 African Americans with criminal records were never disqualified and were allowed to participate in the show.

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Frenchie Davis, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit but was a semi-finalist in the second season until she was disqualified because of topless photos taken earlier in her career, wrote on her Facebook page after news of the lawsuit broke, “American Idol WOULD NOT HAVE DISQUALIFIED ME IF I WERE WHITE. PERIOD. I don’t care how many Black winners they’ve had.

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  • D.B. Cooper

    I would say that I would boycott the show if they cave in, but I would have to watch the show in the first place in order to boycott.

  • Manaphy

    ““American Idol WOULD NOT HAVE DISQUALIFIED ME IF I WERE WHITE. PERIOD.”

    No, they probably would have disqualified you because the cumulative IQ of you and all the plaintiffs in this suit barely reaches the double-digits.

  • Have never watched the show.

    Just searched for “Frenchie Davis” and can’t understand anyone wanting to see her topless.

    • Brian Cooper

      I just did the same and I am now traumatised, and in the pics I saw, she had her clothes on. That thing is a beast. It’s not human. It should be arrested and charged with impersonating a female.

  • Global Minority

    Give me a break. If they didn’t live around non-blacks this couldn’t happen.

  • JohnEngelman

    Discrimination on the basis of what correlates with race, such as felony convictions and low test scores, is legitimate.

  • sbuffalonative

    “there has never been a single white (or non-black) contestant disqualified from ‘American Idol’–not ever.”

    Did any of these white contestants have criminal records or try to conceal their criminal records?

  • From what I understand, the AI producers are upset with lying and covering up. The reason they ditched blacks with less serious arrest records and let whites through with more serious arrest records is probably because the blacks lied about not having an arrest record, while the whites didn’t.

    • willbest

      No that can’t be it. Honesty isn’t important in an employee. Why would any employer be interested in that skill?

  • Spartacus

    If you have a problem with it, move to Africa and try competing in Somalia’s Got Talent. See if you reach the auditions alive.

  • bigone4u

    I’ve never watched the show. Ironically, I find that the show worships blacks too much and is thus anti-white on its premise. Can I file a lawsuit too? Ha ha ha ha. Oh, and the current black style of singing is an affront to my eardrums. Maybe Obamacare can fix my damaged ears.

  • Extropico

    This lawsuit needs a transfer of venue motion to Monrovia, Liberia. Deport the plaintiffs to Africa to assist them with their case in Liberian courts.

  • Luca

    I’d be curious to see what kind of waivers, warnings, disclosures and agreements the plaintiffs signed before entering the contest.

    Can you imagine if they didn’t conduct background checks and someone got, raped, mugged or murdered backstage?

    Aside from that, if blacks have been awarded top prize 33% of the time shouldn’t that be reduced as they only comprise about 12% of the population?

    • JDInSanD

      They also all sound the same. There’s nothing unique about their voices or singing styles.

  • So CAL Snowman

    I think i’m going to sue the government because I have White skin.

    So CAL Snowman vs. The State of California

    I bet the discovery phase would be very illuminating.

  • So CAL Snowman

    I wonder if the American Idol producers asked the black contestants to provide a photo I.D.? Another lawsuit right there.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Losers and whiners suing lefties. Where’s the downside and why would we want to stop them?

    “Freeman (plaintiffs’ lawyer) also claimed that the show illegally dredged up arrest records to make the black contestants appear to be ‘violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants…'”

    Criminal records are completely legal to access.

    “while at the same time championing the advancement of White contestants whose criminal records were far more egregious.”

    Let’s see a list of names and arrest records of those White contestants.

    Looks like American Idol will begin implementing Affirmative Action. If they think their ratings plunged last season, wait until this coming season.

    Bon

  • White Mom in WDC

    Just another indicator to disengage from Amurkistan pop culture. Turn off the Joo tube white people? Get the eff of Fakebook!

  • Lewis33

    Poor helpless put upon blacks vs those who must not be named…hope you both lose, somehow.

    • e2657383

      Hear Hear! I especially hope that those who shall not be named have to pay big $$$$$$$$$$$

  • borogirl54

    From I remember, Corey Clark also claimed to have a sexual affair with Paula Abdul, who was one of the judges on American Idol at that time. As far as the arrest records go, it would come out anyway after they had been on the show.

  • MBlanc46

    Gee, I guess that whites who apply to America Idol don’t have criminal records.

  • SFLBIB

    “…the show’s producers have denied any discrimination… ‘

    “When we fail to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, and the behaviors that lead to success and those that lead to failure, we do not end up objective, neutral, tolerant, or even indifferent; we end up hating what is good, right, and successful.” — The Closing of the American Mind

  • SFLBIB

    “…they went on a recruitment search for blacks and hispanics with ‘mild felony’ records…”

    All the while denying that the department lowered its standards.

  • Funruffian

    I have watched this show periodically, but seldom. Many of the Blacks that make the latter stages of the competition aren’t really that good. Rueben Stoddard comes to mind. Fantasia was another AA fluke and didn’t have anything on the prettier and more talented Diana DeGarmo.

  • They have to find some reason to claim raycizm.