Former star of The Real Housewives of AtlantaNeNe Leakes sued companies involved in the show on Wednesday, claiming that they allowed and encouraged a hostile work environment.
According to the Atlanta federal court lawsuit, Leakes, who was Black, complained about years of racist remarks made by Kim Zolciak Biermann, a white fellow housewife, but that only Leakes incurred the consequences.
It names Bravo, NBCUniversal, Bravo, production company True Entertainment, Truly Original and executives from these companies as defendants. HousewivesAndy Cohen, executive producer, but Zolciak-Biermann is not.
“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not, encouraged,” the suit says.
Emails to Zolciak Biermann and defendants asking for comment were not returned immediately.
54-year-old Leakes was a TV personality and actor whose legal title is Linnethia Monique Leakes. She spent seven seasons as one the central stars of The Simpsons. The Real Housewives of AtlantaBetween 2008 and 2020
It alleges that during the first season, which aired in 2008, the cast was planning to attend a barbecue, and housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann, responded to the idea with “words to the effect of: ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken.’” The suit says the statement “perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.”
The suit says in 2012 during the fifth season, Zolciak-Biermann made “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments about the new home of housewife Kandi Burruss, calling her neighborhood a “ghetto” and perpetuating a racial stereotype in an offensive comment about whether Burruss needed a swimming pool.
The suit claims that Zolciak Biermann used the N word to refer to Leakes after a dispute with them in the same year. It also alleges Zolciak-Biermann falsely implied that Leakes used drugs and called her home a “roach nest.”
The suit says after Leakes complaints to the executives overseeing the show, they “did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior,” and if anything rewarded her by giving her her own spinoff show.
“From the day the series began filming, NeNe was the target of systemic racism from co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, which was tolerated by Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen and other executives,” Leakes’ lawyer David deRubertis said in a statement.
Joe Habachy, another Leakes’ attorney, said via email that “not a day goes by that NeNe doesn’t wake up with an onslaught of overwhelming emotions as a direct result of these unfortunate and avoidable occurrences.”
Leakes’ complaints of racism were alleged to have led to Leakes’ expulsion from the show in 2020 just before its 13th year.
The suit says Leakes’ negotiations for the season came as the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining major momentum, with Leakes a vocal supporter.
Executives wanted to keep Leakes quiet about the cause, keeping them away from episodes where Leakes would discuss BLM, the suit alleges.
“As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our nation, Mrs. Leakes — Bravo’s historically most successful Black female talent — should have been embraced by NBC, Bravo, and True,” the suit says. “Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the ‘house she built,’ denying her a regular role.”
The suit alleges that the defendants’ actions violate federal employment and anti-discrimination law, and it seeks monetary damages to be determined at trial.