Simon Cowell’s company has spoken out after Gabrielle Union’s unexpected firing from America’s Got Talent. The former host had a litany of complaints that weren’t initially reported when news of her termination was first announced.
Union lost her job on America’s Got Talent after one season due to what’s been described as a toxic work environment. Details of what Union allegedly endured have finally surfaced. She took issue with Cowell’s indoor cigarette smoking in her presence (problematic because she’s allergic and it’s illegal), repeated and culturally insensitive notes about her afrocentric hairstyles, and also the inappropriate comment Jay Leno supposedly made about the Asian community. Since the initial reports of her firing, Union has weighed in. Her husband, former basketball player Dwyane Wade voiced his concerns about the incident. Even celebrities like Ellen Pompeo and Lin-Manuel Miranda condemned Union’s treatment. Yet, one person has been noticeably silent from the situation. Simon Cowell, Union’s fellow judge on America’s Got Talent, as well as her former boss, failed to get in front of the controversy when it first struck. His company, Syco Entertainment, finally commented on the claims.
A statement was released by Syco Entertainment (via: People) in a partnership with Freemantle and NBC that explained: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” adding, “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”
This begs the question: Where were Union’s representatives when these events originally transpired? The actress has appeared in a number films, including She’s All That and Bring It On, as well as television shows like Being Mary Jane and L.A.’s Finest. Surely she has an agent, a manager, an attorney, and SAG-AFTRA at her disposal. Yet, none of the aforementioned factions were able to stave off these alleged workplace violations. Did she endeavor to notify the proper channels along the way, or did she sit silent, fearful about making waves?
It’s good that Cowell and the other powers that be have finally decided to start a dialogue with Union about her concerns. However, why weren’t her concerns entertained before taking the drastic step to fire her? Terminating someone’s employment should be the last resort when dealing with workplace issues. When Union complained about the Leno comment, someone should have looked into that and acted accordingly. Each time Union received racist notes stating that her hairstyles were “too black” for the America’s Got Talent audience, there should have been an inquiry into that, because it’s actually illegal in California to discriminate against a black person for adopting natural hairstyles. It’s just so bizarre that executives and staffers could have done more to mitigate these issues, but didn’t… until now. With all of these issues, Union should count her blessings that things worked out the way they did. No one should have to work in such a discordant environment. As for NBC, Syco Entertainment, and America’s Got Talent, all three should be mindful in creating an environment that’s inclusive and productive for everyone.
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