An American Idol lawsuit brought by former contestants on the show accusing producers of racial discrimination will move forward. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that 10 black American Idol hopefuls who were disqualified from the show for reasons other than their singing will be allowed to sue FOX and the show’s production company, 19 Entertainment.
The plaintiffs in the American Idol lawsuit claim that the show has demonstrated a pattern of racial discrimination over the show’s history. They are accusing producers of using the arrest records of black male contestants against them to get them kicked off the show. According to the suit, 31 percent of black American idol semi-finalists were disqualified for reasons “unrelated to their singing talent.” Moreover, the lawsuit claims that no white or non-black contestant has ever been disqualified from American Idol on the series.
FOX and 19 Entertainment representatives have firmly denied any racial discrimination behind the scenes of American Idol. The network notes that three out of the past twelve winners of the show have been black or biracial, including Candice Glover and Ruben Studdard. Producers stated in a response to the lawsuit that there is no evidence whatsoever that “the particular disqualification of these specific individuals had anything to do with their race.”
The network had hoped to have the lawsuit dismissed after repeatedly denying the contestants were technically “employees” of American Idol. As non-employees, producers insisted to the EEOC, the plaintiffs were not even protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects workers from being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.
However, documents obtained by ABC News in the American Idol racial discrimination lawsuit show that contestants were made to fill out an I-9 employee eligibility form. In addition, company memos called contestant Corey Clark as a “principal performer” and referred to him repeatedly as an Employee. The EEOC apparently felt this was enough evidence to allow the lawsuit to move forward.
Corey Clark is the only one of the plaintiffs in the case to make the top 10 before being disqualified. Producers said he had failed to disclose a previous arrest record as required when he filled out his paperwork to be on the show. He later claimed he had an affair with American Idol judge Paula Abdul while he was on the show. Clark also previously filed a personal lawsuit against Viacom for alleged derogatory comments made about him by an MTV news reporter.
Personally, we’re going to weigh in here and say we think while it is weird that no non-black contestants were ever disqualified and a lot of black contestants were… not disclosing your arrest record was a requirement to be on the show, not a request. If you refuse to play by the rules, then you get your a** handed to you when you break them. We look forward to getting more information on whether FOX disqualified any singers who did NOT lie on their application paperwork…
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