February 19, 2018 / 9:13 AM

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Former ‘Tonight Show’ Employees Sue NBC, Questlove Over Alleged Racial Discrimination

 

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Two former employees from the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon have launched a lawsuit against NBC and The Roots's Questlove for allegedly discriminating against them and causing their wrongful termination.

Kurt Decker and Michael Cimino, camera operators for the show, claim the musician targeted them for dismissal because they are white.

In the lawsuit, Decker and Cimino allege that last June, they received an "unsolicited racist and misogynist text message from a Tonight Show stagehand." The Roots bassist Mark Kelley, who is African-American, also allegedly received the said text message. Decker and Cimino claim they didn't respond to the message but instead showed it to the manager for The Roots and an NBC technical production manager.

The plaintiffs claim they were both suspended, yet Kelley wasn't. A seven-week investigation ensued, and they claim that Questlove safeguarded Kelley by insisting the bassist not be disciplined and that all Caucasian employees involved in the incident be fired.

Decker and Cimino additionally claim that the way they were suspended follows a pattern of behavior by NBC when it comes to "reporting requirements in other circumstances of wrongful conduct." They brought up the Matt Lauer controversy as an example, saying many employees had complained or had knowledge about Lauer's sexual misconduct — yet NBC ignored such reports and took no action.

A representative for Questlove has officially addressed the lawsuit, saying it contains "ridiculous allegations."

"Racism is REAL and exists throughout the world and for these gentlemen to claim victim is not only disrespectful to Questlove and his band mates, but to all that truly endure racism on a daily basis," said the representative. The uppercased word is theirs.

Decker and Cimino are seeking $1 million in damages.

A spokesperson for NBC has addressed the lawsuit, saying that the network treats its employees with respect and dignity.

"We have strong policies in place that protect against discrimination in any form. The decision about these plaintiffs was the company's alone," said the spokesperson, moving the blame away from Questlove.

This isn't the first time for The Roots to be embroiled in a lawsuit. In 2017, former drummer Frank "Knuckles" Walker sued Questlove and Black Thought over unpaid royalties. In the prior year, former bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard filed a lawsuit against the band's manager for violating a contract, claiming he had signed a contract that made him a co-owner of the band but that The Roots failed to compensate him when he left in 2007.

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