The conservative America First Legal Foundation, led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in a federal district court in New York against Meta, Something Ideal Inc., the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, and
The groups, which supported an advertising production apprenticeship program for minority workers, allegedly discriminated against James Harker, a White man who worked behind the camera on commercials, feature films, and television productions for almost three decades. Despite his years of experience in the commercial film industry, he was denied work opportunities that the defendants reserved for candidates of color, the complaint said.
Harker also was required to report to a non-White employee hired under the program who lacked the experience or qualifications as an electrician, the suit alleged.
Harker filed a charge with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging race discrimination. But the agency in June declined to investigate or make a determination on whether any laws have been violated.
The lawsuit comes amid increasing legal threats and lawsuits by conservative groups to stop corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision curtailing the use of race as a factor in college admissions.
The high court’s ruling concerns race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, which the conservative majority said are discriminatory against White and Asian applicants and not necessary to ensure campus diversity.
Employment law attorneys told Bloomberg Law that the ruling will have a downstream effect on businesses by disrupting DEI practices and inviting challenges to these programs under the federal and state laws that govern them.
The latest suit targeting Meta and the other production companies is challenging the legality of AICP’s “Double the Line” diversity program, which partners with advertisers and agencies to boost career opportunities for Black, indigenous, and people of color in the advertising industry.
The defendants “conspired” and agreed to “put into practice” AICP’s racially discriminatory program in violation of Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the New York Human Rights Law, “which all guarantee race neutrality,” the lawsuit alleged.
“For many decades, New York and Federal law have prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, and sex. The Defendants, with their morally twisted ‘woke’ view that racism, bigotry, and sexism actually are perfectly fine whenever they decide it to be so, have arrogantly declared themselves above the law,” said Reed D. Rubinstein, a senior counselor at America First Legal, which recently urged the EEOC to investigate DEI programs for discrimination.
“The Defendants here, and the entertainment industry more generally, will soon find out that the cost of racialist virtue signaling has gone up,” Reed said.
The companies didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.
The case is Harker v. Meta Platforms Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 1:23-cv-07865, complaint filed 9/5/23.
—with assistance from Clara Hudson