'American Idol' Sued by 10 Black Contestants Over Arrest Checks

Thursday, 25 Jul 2013 12:32 PM

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Ten black "American Idol" former contestants have filed a lawsuit against the show, claiming that African-Americans contestants were targeted with arrest record searches to boot them off the show.

As reported by TMZ.com, the contestants involved in the lawsuit are: Corey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Jacob John Smalley (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju'Not Joyner (Season 8), and Chris Golightly (Season 9).

TMZ.com said the contestants for asking for $25 million each.

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TMZ.com first brought the issue to light in January when it reported that New York-based attorney James H. Freeman wrote a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asking for permission to sue "American Idol" and Fox on grounds of discrimination.

Freeman said in his letter that none of the contestants disqualified from "American Idol" were convicted of the crimes they were dismissed from the show for. He added that the show has never publicly disqualified non-black contestants, according to TMZ.

"Yet their personal and professional lives remain permanently and severely impaired by (the show's) continuing violations of our nation's laws," Freeman said in his filing with the EEOC in January, according to TMZ.com.

According to Fox News, Freeman claims that "American Idol" perpetuated racial stereotypes and painted his clients as "violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants." He said, according to Fox News, that it is against California employment law for contenders to be questioned about their arrest history.

However, attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar told the Fox News that the contestant would be considered independent contractors and not employees, calling the lawsuit "off base" and "wholly misplaced."

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"Yes, California law does prohibit an employer from asking a job applicant about arrests that did not result in convictions, and yes, California law does prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on race, but the key words here are 'employer' and 'employee'," Sedaghatfar told Fox.

"The California Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII, which prohibit racial discrimination in employment, simply do not apply because it will be hard to prove that these individuals were employees," Sedaghatfar added, according to Fox.

Related stories:

Ruben Studdard: 'American Idol' Star Taking On 'The Biggest Loser'

'Arab Idol' Mohammed Assaf Favorite Among Palestinians

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