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Former 'American Idol' singers sue in New York for racial bias

Different industries may use different types of employment contracts to address specific industry-related issues. Within an industry, the nature of a relationship may have certain niche areas. Many media personalities have contractual relationships between the on-air performer and the employer. But, even in the entertainment industry, a network or other entity may need performers to appear in niche roles.

Ten men say that a number of people or entities associated with the popular television singing competition “American Idol” benefitted by humiliating African-American contestants appearing on the show through depicting their termination from the competition based upon stereotypical issues.

The 10 men are African-American and have filed a class-action race discrimination and interference of contract lawsuit in New York against a number of defendants associated with the TV competition.

The men say that black contestants receive disparate treatment from their white (or other non-black) counterparts who appear on the program. The federal race discrimination lawsuit says in the history of the television show 15 black performers have been publicly disqualified after competing on the program—no white, or other non-black contestant, has been publicly disqualified from the competition.

The men say that background information about the performers was publicly released in wrongfully terminating performers from the series-- information such as a criminal record, or in one case the information used to disqualify the contestant said that the singer had been a witness to a murder. The lawsuit alleges that white singers were not subject to similar treatment.

The case may not be the usual employment discrimination type of case. Some commentators suggest that different principles may attach to the case—producers of television programs may often raise First Amendment issues when it comes to casting for a program.

It is important to note that many employment relationships in our changing economy may fall outside the more traditional concept of the 9-to-5 job. A Nassau County employment discrimination lawyer may provide workers who feel the impact of discrimination in the workplace with advice on New York and federal workers’ rights laws.

Source: Courthouse News, “Class Accuses 'American Idol' of Racial Bias,” Marimer Matos, July 26, 2013; UPI, “'American Idol' suit alleges discrimination against blacks,” July 27, 2013

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