NeNe Leakes filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, accusing the production companies behind the hit Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta of having a work environment that was both hostile and racist.
Leakes, 54, claims that her former co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann made racist remarks towards her, as well as other members of RHOA’s cast for years. According to the Associated Press, only Leakes was subject to any punishment, while Zolciak-Biermann was not. The claim read that after Leakes made several complaints to the show’s executives, they “did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior.”
In the suit filed in Atlanta federal court, the defendants include the network, RHOA executive producer Andy Cohen, its production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, and NBCUniversal.
“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated — if not, encouraged,” the suit claims.
Leakes spent seven seasons on The Real Housewives of Atlanta as one of the show’s standout stars. The lawsuit claims that in 2008 when Zolciak-Biermann stated that she didn’t want to attend a group barbecue, saying “words were said to the effect of, ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken’”
During the show’s fifth season in 2012, Zolciak-Biermann allegedly made “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments about the Kandi Burruss’ new house, saying that the neighborhood was “ghetto.” The suit also claims that in the same year, Zolciak-Biermann allegedly used the N-word when referencing Leakes and other castmates after an argument.
“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, per the AP.
Additionally, the suit claims that Leakes’ allegations of racism played a role in her being forced off RHOA ahead of its 13th season. Leakes, who was an avid supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, was kept off certain episodes of the show, ones in which some of the nation’s social issues would be discussed.
“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 alleges. “Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the ‘house she built,’ denying her a regular role.”
According to the AP, Leakes alleges that the defendants’ behavior violated federal employment and anti-discrimination laws and is asking for financial compensation to be decided at trial.
Joe Habachy, another Leakes attorney, wrote in an 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.”