Filmmaker John Ridley, ABC, and Disney Named as Defendants in Discrimination Lawsuit

A woman who was working as a development executive for filmmaker John Ridley has filed a lawsuit alleging that her job was terminated in 2022 after she raised issues of pay inequality since she’s Asian American. Asta Jonasson filed the suit, which named Ridley, ABC, and that network’s parent company, Disney, as co-defendants, in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

The complaint, obtained by Rolling Stone, focuses on Jonasson’s time working for Ridley’s International Famous Players Radio Picture Corp., which THR says started working with ABC Studios in 2016. “The [ABC] announcement included that Ridley would expand his company, including hiring a dedicated development executive, i.e., the role Jonasson was already performing with the title of Director of Development,” the suit says. “In response, Jonasson advocated to Ridley for equal pay.”

The company offered the job to a white man who ultimately turned it down. Jonasson claims she continued to do the duties without fair compensation.

In 2016, Jonasson asked Ridley for the same opportunities he offered to men, according to the complaint, but did not get a positive response. Instead, Ridley allegedly hired men to carry out the assistant and co-producer duties on American Crime that she had previously been doing. She approached Ridley again three years later, according to the filing, allegedly showing him data comparing her workload and compensation to that of a white male coworker. She claims he told her that if she had worked on a freelance script, she “would have left him.” THR reports that one of Ridley’s producing partners used a sexist term to refer to her around this time.

The suit cites an example from 2020 in which Apple TV+ challenged Ridley about hiring only white men in leadership roles on Five Days at Memorial. “Ridley’s response was to state, ‘They have me,’ i.e., a Black male in a prominent position,” the complaint alleges. “Ridley’s dismissive response exemplified his hostility toward women and other minorities taking positions of leadership.”

Ridley’s company fired her in 2022, according to the complaint, which claims the impetus was her asking for a raise for the first time since 2014 after the company hired a white woman as a creative executive. Jonasson alleges she went to reps at ABC and Disney for support but that they did not help her.

“California law requires equal pay for equal work and protects employees who stand up for their rights,” Jonasson’s attorney, Claire-Lise Kutlay of Greenberg Gross LLP said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “We are proud to represent Ms. Jonasson, who has taken this courageous step to publicly speak out against an industry that has systematically marginalized women and minorities.”

Reps for Disney, ABC, and Ridley did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.

“Jonasson now seeks to stand up for herself and countless others in Hollywood who, without bargaining power and in the face of systemic discrimination, are taken advantage of and left working long hours for low wages and little to no credit,” the complaint states.

Jonasson’s suit follows a 2019 class action filing by women against Disney alleging pay disparity. THR reports that a trial is expected to be scheduled for next year.


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