Gabrielle Union files discrimination complaint against NBC

Union worked on "America's Got Talent" for one season and called it "toxic."

Gabrielle Union has filed a harassment and discrimination complaint in California against NBC, Fremantle Productions, Simon Cowell and Cowell's production company, Syco Entertainment, stemming from her time as a judge on "America's Got Talent."

In documents filed with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing department -- which could predicate a lawsuit -- Union's attorney Bryan Freedman stated that Union was terminated after one season on the Cowell-created show because of "her refusal to remain silent in the face of a toxic culture at 'AGT' that included racist jokes, racist performances, sexual orientation discrimination, and excessive focus on female judges' appearances, including race-related comments."

Union's attorney also claimed that the investigation NBC promised to do after Union first went public with her allegations "was tainted from the start and a sham." The investigator hired conducted interviews remotely while on vacation in Europe and changed her preliminary findings "at the direction of NBC and Fremantle," according to the complaint.

In December, 2019, Union raised about 60 issues she faced while a judge on the show with the investigator, according to the complaint, which goes on to say that NBC Entertainment's chairman, Paul Telegdy, "threatened Union through her agent and warned Union's agent that Union had better cease from pursuing her claims of racism."

"By virtue of Union refusing to silently endure the racist and misogynistic conduct on 'AGT,' she was labelled as 'intimidating' and viewed as the problem, thus resulting in her termination," the complaint said. "However, based on the preliminary results of the investigator’s findings, it is clear that there are systemic problems on 'AGT.' Instead of taking Union’s complaints seriously and using them as a catalyst for real meaningful change, Telegdy, NBC, Fremantle and Syco seek to blame the victim, Union, in order to maintain the status quo."

A spokesperson for NBC, however, told ABC News, "The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue."

"We took Ms. Union‘s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show," the statement continued. "NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect."

Representatives for Fremantle Productions, Syco Entertainment, and Cowell did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment. However, in late May, NBC, Fremantle and Syco reportedly said that their investigation "highlighted some areas in which reporting processes could be improved," although it also "demonstrated an overall culture of diversity."

“Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time,” the statement at the time read. “The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.”

Union, 47, first went public with her claims in 2019, and told her Twitter followers last December that she'd met with executives in a five-hour, "productive" meeting. An NBC spokesperson confirmed at the time that the meeting took place and called the conversation "candid and productive."

"While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution," read a statement form the network at the time.

In her complaint, Union's attorney claimed that the investigator told Union she was fired from '"AGT" due to a lack of chemistry with the other judges — Cowell, Julianne Hough and Howie Mandel. Freedman added, however, that Union never had an opportunity to create chemistry with them, as "NBC's illegal and unethical conduct began on Union's first day."

"At that time, Union was labelled 'difficult' due to the fact that she requested that Cowell smoke cigarettes outside in accordance with California law. When NBC failed to take any remedial actions against Cowell, it started to become apparent to Union that NBC has different rules for white males," the complaint said. "Union’s belief was subsequently reinforced after NBC allowed a contestant to perform on 'AGT' using blackface hands."

"The conduct that Union was forced to endure makes it plainly obvious and entirely reasonable that she would feel unprotected by NBC," the document continued. "Any difficulty that Union may have had developing chemistry with the other judges, if any, was clearly due to the fact that no one was monitoring the illegal and unethical conduct that was occurring on 'AGT.'"

Monica Escobedo and Alondra Valle contributed to this report.