Mass Appeal Facing Racial Discrimination Lawsuit
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Melissa Cooper, who is white, alleges she was subjected to discrimination by Mass Appeal executives who were “removing her from several high value projects, creating a hostile work environment, and terminating her employment.”
The lawsuit brought forth by Cooper, the company’s former head of development, identifies chief executive Peter Bittenbender, who is also white, and senior VP for partnerships a content acquisition Jenya Meggs, who is Black. Nas was not named in the suit.
Prior to her dismissal from Mass Appeal, Cooper claims she dealt with “venomous and racist comments about ‘White folk’ and ‘crackers,'” much of which allegedly occurred while working on the upcoming Hulu documentary Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told. (Complex has an extensive oral history of Freaknik here.)
Cooper’s legal team obtained a text exchange in which Meggs complained to Freaknik executive producer Terry Ross about the project being pitched to Cooper and not her. The doc was brought to her by Freaknik executive producer and longtime professional acquaintance Alex Avant. Meggs expressed that there were no hard feelings before classifying the situation as “usual white folk behavior.”
Cooper alleges Meggs pushed Mass Appeal to hire her friend, who is Black, for a human resources position. This person was later used as an “unbiased mediator” to resolve a conflict between Meggs and Cooper.
The suit alleges Meggs told Bittenbender that she no longer wanted to work Cooper, who was then removed from several upcoming projects, including Mass Appeal’s Hip Hop 50 Live concert at Yankee Stadium. “Cooper’s removal from this important project, along with others Meggs was staffed on, effectively stripped Cooper of her primary role at Mass Appeal,” the complaint reads.
Cooper was informed on June 16 that her last day at Mass Appeal would be June 30. She alleges the company never investigated her complaints about racial discrimination.