Mo'Nique and Netflix Settle Racial and Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

The Oscar-winning actress and comedian filed suit against the streamer in 2019.

Mo'Nique and Netflix have settled their years-long legal battle. In court documents obtained by ET, on Tuesday Mo'Nique Hicks and Netflix agreed to dismiss the lawsuit she brought against them on Tuesday, "including without limitation all claims alleged therein, with prejudice, with each party to bear her or its own costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees." No further details of the settlement were disclosed.

In 2017, Netflix and Mo'Nique began discussions for the comedian to film a comedy special to air on the streamer. According to the original complaint, the idea fell through when Netflix made an offer that she found "biased, discriminatory" -- an opening offer of $500,000 for a one-hour show that Netflix would have complete control over, including owning the copyright and retaining all audio-only rights to the special. 

The 54-year-old protested the offer, noting that other comics received much more. When Mo'Nique countered, Netflix allegedly shut down negotiations and blackballed her.

In a video posted in 2018, Mo’Nique pointed out the discrepancies between her offer and other comedians' pay. According to a report by Variety, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle were reportedly given $20 million per special as part of their deals with Netflix (Rock signed on for two at $40 million total; Chappelle, three for $60 million total) and Amy Schumer reportedly signed a deal for $11 million for The Leather Special.

"Then Amy Schumer went back and renegotiated two more million dollars because she said, 'I shouldn’t make what the men are getting, they're legends, however, I should get more.' And Netflix agreed," Mo'Nique added. The comedian then said her team asked Netflix to explain the difference between her offered payday and Schumer’s.

“They said, ‘Well, we believe that’s what Mo’Nique will bring.’ We said, ‘Well, what about my résumé?’ They said, ‘We don’t go off résumés,’” she said. “Then we asked them, ‘What was it about Amy Schumer?’ And they said, ‘Well, she sold out Madison Square Garden twice and she had her big movie over the summer.’ Is that not Amy Schumer’s résumé? And then Netflix said, 'By the way, we believe Mo’Nique is a legend too.’ Why should I not get what the legends are getting?”

In November 2019, Mo'Nique filed suit claiming racial and gender discrimination. 

"Netflix reportedly offered or paid Rock, Chappelle, DeGeneres and Gervais 40 times more per show than it offered Mo'Nique, and it offered Schumer 26 times more per show than Mo'Nique," the lawsuit alleged, according to CBS News. "In short, Netflix's offer to Mo'Nique perpetuates the drastic wage gap forced upon Black women in the American workforce."

"Despite Mo'Nique’s extensive résumé and documented history of comedic success, when Netflix presented her with an offer of employment for an exclusive stand-up comedy special, Netflix made a low-ball offer that was only a fraction of what Netflix paid other (non-Black female) comedians,” the lawsuit continues. "When the talent was not a Black woman, Netflix offered to pay, and did pay, astronomically more than it pays to Black women like it offered to Mo'Nique."

"Given her background and history of success, Mo'Nique was precisely the type of talent Netflix should have wanted," her lawyers stated. "Mo'Nique had a proven track record of success in original stand-up content, had years of filling stand-up venues, [and] was widely regarded as one of the leading Black female comedians of all time."

The suit also noted a general pattern of gender and racial discrimination at the streamer, highlighting such instances as when Claire Foy was paid significantly less than Matt Smith for The Crown. It also referenced a $20 million deal for Ellen DeGeneres and a $40 million deal for Ricky Gervais.

Mo'Nique wasn't the first Black woman to bemoan Netflix's pay for comedy specials; Wanda Sykes said Netflix offered her less than $250,000, an offer she rejected. Sykes eventually agreed to a special because "they moved that comma," Sykes told Variety.

At the time, Netflix said in a statement, "We care deeply about inclusion, equity and diversity and take any accusations of discrimination very seriously. We believe our opening offer to Mo'Nique was fair -- which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit." 

Netflix moved to dismiss the suit in 2020 but, according to Deadline, Judge Andre Birotte Jr. dismissed the attempt, saying, "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 federal judge added, "While Netflix argues that the novelty of Mo’Nique’s claim and the absence of on-point legal authority for it should bar her retaliation claims outright, the Court disagrees." 

Mo’Nique noted the precedent-setting nature of her suit, writing on Instagram, “I could accept what I felt was pay discrimination or I could stand up for those who came before me and those who will come after me. I chose to stand up.”

ET has reached out to Mo'Nique and Netflix for comment.