Petition statement to be delivered to The California State House, The California State Senate, The United States House of Representatives, and The United States Senate

NO to Jim Crow: Workers are Workers (Trabajadores son Trabajadores)

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NO to Jim Crow: Workers are Workers (Trabajadores son Trabajadores)

To be delivered to The California State House, The California State Senate, The United States House of Representatives, and The United States Senate

Petition Statement

Employment discrimination laws already exist. Congress - along with state legislatures - must take the stand that these laws apply in full and without exception to the entertainment industry and its workers, both those in front of and behind the camera.

Las leyes en contra la discriminación en el lugar del trabajo ya existen. El Congreso, junto con las cámaras de los estados, tienen que ponerse firmes y decir que estas leyes se apliquen por completo y sin excepción a la industria de entretenimiento y a sus trabajadores, tanto en frente y detrás de la cámara.
There are currently 80 signatures. NEW goal - We need 100 signatures!

Petition Background

“Are there any White women here for Humira?”

Can you imagine? You’ve applied for a job, and the interviewer asks if any of the many applicants waiting in the lobby are of a specific race and gender. It sounds like something from the Jim Crow era ... but it’s not.

I heard these very words auditioning for a commercial advertisement in early 2013, the client reportedly not wanting to pair interracial couples on camera. Unfortunately, this Humira casting was not unique. This type of discrimination is prevalent in the entertainment industry, so much so that non-discriminatory castings feel unique (watch, for example, a panel discussion about Hollywood's preference for hiring White males - "The Last Negro On Earth ... starring Johnny Depp: How the Business of Hollywood Shapes the Business of Every Day" - hosted by the San Francisco Public Library <http://youtu.be/XdwY72NV6n8>).

The reactions to a recent Cheerios ad (FN 1) demonstrate the breadth of the entertainment industry's discriminatory net. The interracial family depicted in the ad caused such a stir that General Mills - the maker of Cheerios - had to close the comments section on the video sharing site (FN 2), and the airwaves were flooded with media coverage of the story.

Donny Deutsch, chairman of advertising agency Deutsch Inc., said he understands why some companies shy away from similar casting. “Advertisers have really one objective – to make money for their shareholders,” he said. “Your responsibility is to do what’s right for your brand.” (FN 3)

Yet making money is not where business responsibilities end. Anti-discrimination laws require compliance. “Casting discrimination is illegal,” says Kent Mannis, Managing Editor of LawRoom.com, “identifying race or ethnicity or gender in job ads is illegal, but they continue to get away with the aw-shucks-that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it defense.” (FN 4)

I graduated from Harvard Law School, practiced law in California, served in the legal Peace Corps (FN 5), and have been a professional Actor for over a decade. The failures of state and federal courts and legislatures to protect entertainment workers from illegal discrimination are unacceptable. No other business is entitled to client preference and profits as defenses to employment discrimination. It’s time Congress and state legislatures take the stand that equal employment opportunity applies equally to all workers.

FOOTNOTES
1 “Just Checking”. Advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi (New York).

2 Rivas, Jorge. “Cheerios Ad Starring Interracial Family Ignites Racist Hate Storm”, Colorlines: News for Action (May 31, 2013); Stump, Scott. “Cheerios ad with mixed-race family draws racist responses”, Today (June 3, 2013).

3 Stump, Scott. “Cheerios ad with mixed-race family draws racist responses”, Today (June 3, 2013).

4 Email to the editor. "Lawyer: No legal exception for showbiz hiring discrimination", Puget Sound Business Journal (September 2, 2009). See also “Hollywood's Race/Ethnicity and Gender-Based Casting: Prospects for a Title VII Lawsuit”, Latino Policy & Issues Brief (December 2006) (a study of entertainment industry casting calls finding that Hollywood regularly violates Title VII by intentionally discriminating based on race, color, and sex); Compare Claybrooks v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2012 WL 4890686 (M.D.Tenn., October 15, 2012); Lyle v. Warner Brothers, 117 Cal.App.4th 1164 (2004); “Casting a Wider Net: Achieving the Legal Mandate for Diversity in Entertainment” Oversight Hearing, California State Assembly, Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media (October 19, 2011); Equal Opportunity in (Entertainment) Employment RESOURCE LIST, http://gettingplayed.homestead.com/Resources.html.

5 The Skadden Fellowship as described by The Los Angeles Times.

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