Blue Bloods was unsurprisingly renewed for an 11th season by CBS on Wednesday, but the series and the network’s parent company ViacomCBS may see itself in a real-life courtroom soon over a racial discrimination and workplace retaliation lawsuit.
“Defendants subjected Plaintiff to a hostile work environment based on her race/color and national origin which was sufficiently severe and/or pervasive so as to unreasonably interfere with the workplace environment,” reads a complaint citing 10 causes of action filed by former Blue Bloods costumer Trenena “Trina” Patterson against the media giant and the series’ costume designer Michael Woll.
“As a result of Woll’s unyielding discrimination and harassment, Plaintiff often left the set crying,” details the early March filing (read it here) in federal court, regarding both the treatment from Woll and the corporate blowback the longish-term employee says she encountered after taking matters up the food chain.
“CBS is currently looking into the claims raised in the filing and takes all allegations of discrimination and harassment by its employees very seriously,” a spokesperson for CBS Studios told Deadline of Patterson’s case, which has been grinding through the courts for two months now. Both Woll and co-defendants ViacomCBS and production company Eye Productions have until June 5 to respond to the initial complaint.
Having said that, the initial complaint, which seeks a jury trial, widespread damages and injunctive reinstatement relief, is specific in listings Patterson’s experience on the popular police drama toplined by Tom Selleck.
Woll “subjected Plaintiff to racially biased stereotypes by frequently stating to Plaintiff: ‘black people can’t swim’ and ‘black people don’t climb on ladders,’ the 15-page filing from the Derek Smith Law Group PLLC firm alleges. “Additionally, Woll made comments about Plaintiff having more than one ‘baby daddy,’ along with comments about Plaintiff’s ‘wide hips’ and ‘big butt,’ again referring to a discriminatory stereotype about African-Americans.”
“By way of example only, on or about August 13, 2019, Woll yelled at Plaintiff for speaking with a male co-worker and told her to ‘stop being such a slut,’” the suit also notes, with more graphic examples as well.
Following these instances, Patterson, who had been promoted in 2018 to full-time on the show after four years as a part-time costumer, went to both her direct supervisor Yleana Nunez and her union around August 26 last year to complain.
Two days later, Patterson’s suit says, she suddenly had her hours cut from five days a week to one day a week because of so-called “performance issues.” In mid-September 2019, Patterson discloses she was pink slipped entirely from Blue Bloods as the show began its 10th season.
“As Defendants’ conduct has been malicious, willful, outrageous, and conducted with full knowledge of the law, Plaintiff demands punitive damages against Defendants,” the filings states, noting the loss of income, “future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, humiliation, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonpecuniary losses” Patterson’s lawyers say she has suffered.
Now, like many a network and a studio in recent years, this is not the first time CBS has been on the receiving end of such accusations. So, with the parsed statement from the defendants, their official filed response next month will be telling.
Having wrapped its 10th season a little earlier than planned last week, Blue Bloods is expected back in the fall once and depending on how production ramps up after the halts due to the coronavirus pandemic – with or without Woll.
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