Entertainment

Former Top BET Exec Claims “Misogynistic Culture” in Discrimination Lawsuit

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BY SUSAN JOHNES

Zola Mashariki, formerly the head at Black Entertainment Television, has moved ahead on legal claims she foreshadowed upon her mistreatment from the network in March.

In a discrimination lawsuit filed late Wednesday in California federal court, Mashariki is suing Viacom, BET, and former president of programming Stephen Hill. She is alleging rampant gender discrimination at the network.

The complaint states, “The Company fosters a good old boys’ club atmosphere which is mentality hostile to women and their advancement.”

It adds that the misogynistic culture, which begins at the top of the corporate structure, marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women.

Mashariki has worked at Fox Searchlight for 15 years. She has produced many films, including “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Mashariki stated that she joined BET in 2015 as a woman of color. The brand needed her due to her race which offered an opportunity to increasing the visual representation of African-Americans.

In December 2016, she was diagnosed with early breast cancer. Mashariki said that she continued to work until the day of her surgery, Feb 6th when she began her medical leave.

The complaint states that Mashariki was diagnosed with a second and more severe type of breast cancer, which required a longer leave. It was the weakest moments for Ms. Mashariki who needed help and support from Viacom, BET, and Defendant Hill.

Unfortunately, they escalated their retaliation against her. They stated that due to her disability, she could no longer represent BET. Worst still, a senior executive at BET suggested to Ms. Mashariki’s colleagues that she was ‘faking’ her breast cancer.

These false statements caused damaged Ms. Mashariki’s reputation by suggesting that she was a liar attempting to avoid the duties of her office.

Even before that event, Mashariki, a Harvard Law School graduate, allege she was the victim of discrimination. She particularly pointed out Hill, who also exited BET in March.

Her complaint describes women as being grossly underrepresented in leadership positions at the Company. “The executive leadership positions of the Company are overwhelmingly male-dominated. Before Defendant Hill left BET, seven of the ten members of its executive team were men.

Mashariki cites her experiences as well as other high-ranking female employees, quoted in her legal papers.

Mashariki also complains about being required to “perform more work for less pay and lower title” compared to male employees. She said, “Hill got a promotion despite causing the company to lose millions in revenue.”

Additionally, the complaint stated that on March 2016, Hill verbally attacked and threatened Ms. Mashariki by not immediately forwarding an email that she had not yet reviewed.

The situation failed to come to an end despite Mashariki reporting the incident to the head of human recourses, whose response she termed “insufficient.”

Read the original story here.

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