Cross-dressing media personality and blogger B. Scott (whose real name is Brandon Sessoms) has sued BET Networks and its parent company Viacom for $2.5 million for discrimination and a number of other claims. The suit emanates from their actions when he appeared as a host at this year's BET Awards pre-show in Los Angeles.
The 32-year-old says that both BET and Viacom knew about his androgynous persona when they offered him the job, that no restrictions were made on his appearance, and that his outfit (a black tunic and pants with heels) was approved by show organizers. However, he says that soon after he appeared on camera, he was pulled backstage. There, he says he was told to pull his hair back, remove some of his make-up, and change into men's clothing and shoes. Scott contends that this completely changed the persona for which he is known and in which he feels comfortable.
In addition to requiring him to change his appearance for the event, Scott says that his hosting responsibilities were turned over to someone else, and that he was not brought back until the end of the show. However, by then, he contends, his image and reputation were already damaged. Moreover, he says that he was not paid for the job.
After speaking with representatives of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), BET Networks dismissed the matter as a miscommunication, and stated that they regretted any offense to Scott or anyone in the LGBT community. That was not enough for Scott. He said on his website that he tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue with BET Networks and Viacom, but was unable to do so. Therefore he filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. He is also suing for breach of contract, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Scott is asking for $2.5 million in damages.
This case shows what can happen when companies fail to resolve issues internally with employees. Anyone who has suffered discrimination in the workplace and is not able to satisfactorily resolve the issue with his or her employer should consult an attorney who specializes in employment law to help ensure that the employer is held responsible and that the claimant receive damages for any financial loss and physical or emotional suffering.
Courthouse News Service, "Androgynous TV Host Sues Viacom & BET" Matt Reynolds, Aug. 09, 2013