Is BET Network A Breeding Ground For Misogynistic Culture?!

Things are getting real over at BET and for the worst reasons.

A couple of months ago, the entertainment world was shocked to learn that BET’s President Stephen Hill and Head of Original Programming Zola Mashariki were ousted at the network. This was particularly alarming because Mashariki was on leave after a breast cancer diagnosis and her job should have been protected under the Family Medical Leave Act. Now, the former BET executive is fighting back.

Yesterday, she filed a discrimination lawsuit against BET, Viacom and former President Stephen Hill alleging rampant gender discrimination and harassment. She’s demanding unspecified monetary damages plus a permanent injunction against Viacom and BET from engaging in unlawful practices plus an order requiring the companies to implement programs to remedy a hostile work environment. She also wants her position restored or full back and front pay.

In her complaint, Mashariki alleges

“The Company fosters a good old boys’ club atmosphere and mentality that are hostile to women and their advancement. This misogynistic culture, which marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women, begins at the top of the corporate structure.”

Though this may come as a shock to some, when Hill was fired in March, a source came forward saying that he had attempted to access Mashariki’s medical files to validate her diagnosis and, he then discussed her condition in a staff meeting. When Viacom CEO Bob Bakish got word of this horrible breach of privacy, he made the decision to dismiss Hill. Mashariki’s lawsuit backs up this source’s claim.

Unfortunately, knowing how women are treated in the workplace specifically when it comes to the wage gap and other microaggressions, we are not at all surprised by Mashariki’s claim. She says, “Hill treated women like administrative support and took credit for their work.” In the lawsuit, Mashariki describes one particularly heinous incident that allegedly occurred on March 16, 2016. It states, Hill “verbally attacked and threatened Ms. Mashariki when she demonstrated ‘disobedience’ by not immediately forwarding an email that she had not yet opened or reviewed.” Mashariki says she reported the incident to the head of human recourses, whose response she deemed to be “insufficient.” You can read the full complaint here.

Though Stephen Hill nor BET have yet to responded to these allegations, Viacom has already released a statement. They’ve stated,

“These claims misrepresent the facts and are without merit,” says a spokesperson. “We strongly deny any allegation of wrongdoing, and we intend to respond to the specific allegations in the course of legal proceedings. At Viacom and BET, we take the health and well-being of our employees very seriously, and we are committed to fostering an inclusive, diverse workplace that supports the success of all employees.”

BET and Viacom can say whatever they want, but things just don’t seem to be adding up in their favor. Something isn’t right here and anyone who has done something wrong needs to be held accountable.