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Attorney for Plaintiff BRANDON SESSOMS

IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES Case No.

BRANDON SESSOMS, a.k.a. B. SCOTT, an individual, Plaintiff,

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vs.
2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

BET NETWORKS, Inc., VIACOM, Inc., and DOES 1-20, Defendants.

Plaintiff alleges as follows:


I.

This is an action for damages for Discrimination on the Basis of Gender

Identity/Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation under the California Fair


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UNLIMITED JURISDICTION COMPLAINT FOR:
1.

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

DISCRIMINATION BASED ON GENDER IDENTITY/GENDER EXPRESSION DISCRIMINAITON BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION VIOLATION OF THE UNRUH CIVIL RIGHTS ACT BREACH OF CONTRACT WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

$2,500,000 IN COMPENSATORY DAMAGES REQUESTED JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

INTRODUCTION

Complaint

WAUKEEN Q. McCOY, ESQ. (SBN: 168228) LAW OFFICES OF WAUKEEN Q. McCOY 703 Market Street, Suite 1300 San Francisco, California 94103 Telephone: (415) 675-7705 Facsimile: (415) 675-2530 E-mail: mail@mccoyslaw.com

Employment and Housing Act, Violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Unlawful Termination, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.
II. 2.

THE PARTIES

Plaintiff Brandon Sessoms, aka B. SCOTT ("B. SCOTT") is an openly gay TV

and Internet Personality, Advice Columnist and Entrepreneur. B. SCOTT identifies his gender identity as transgender. B. SCOTTs gender identity is separate and distinct from his sexual orientation.
3.

At the time of this complaint, B. SCOTT is a resident of the County of Los Angeles.

4.

Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendant BET

Network (BET), which is a holding Company of Viacom, Inc., is a corporation

doing business in California. BET falsely holds itself out as being a Corporation

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that embraces global diversity in all of its forms. BET has boasted about maintaining an inclusive workforce and a culture that values all perspectives and backgrounds. The conduct of BET giving rise to the factual basis of this lawsuit occurred within the city of Los Angeles, in the County of Los Angeles, which was the location of B. SCOTTs former employment and the locus of the discriminatory acts. Therefore venue is proper before this Court. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendant Viacom, Inc.

(VIACOM) promulgates, imposes, and enforces policies, procedures, and guidelines in its wholly-owned subsidiary, BET, which resulted in the complained-of

violations of Plaintiffs rights. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendant Viacom, Inc.

(VIACOM) exercises control, supervision, and dominion over its wholly-owned subsidiary, BET and the employees, managers, and directors thereof, who motivated,

actuated, and/or perpetrated the complained-of violations of Plaintiffs rights. Plaintiff is ignorant of the true names and capacities of defendants sued herein as

DOES 1-20, inclusive, and Plaintiff therefore sues such defendants by such fictitious
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names. Plaintiff will ask for leave of the court to amend this complaint to allege their true names and capacities when ascertained. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that each of these fictitiously named defendants are responsible in some manner for the occurrences, acts and omissions alleged herein and that B. SCOTT's injuries as alleged were proximately caused by such aforementioned defendants.
8.

herein, each of the defendants were and are the agent, employee and/or servant of

each defendant and committed the occurrences, acts and omissions complained of herein while acting within the scope of such agency, employment and servitude.

Each defendant is responsible for the occurrences, acts and omissions of each other defendant complained of herein.
III.

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9. 10. 11.

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. On Thursday May 16, 2013, B. SCOTT had dinner with his good friend Mariah

Carey, Rachel McIntosh, Stephen Hill (President of Programming and Specials at BET), Liron Dagan, Randy Jackson, and his wife Elizabeth. At that dinner, during a conversation between B. SCOTT and Stephen Hill, it was

suggested to Mr. Hill that he needed someone like B. Scott for the 2013 BET Awards. B. SCOTT also detailed that he had previously appeared twice on BETs

show "106 and Park.

Stephen Hill agreed that B. SCOTT should have some role as a presenter for BET

at the annual BET Awards Pre-Show, and Mr. Hill asked who had previously booked B. SCOTT for his BET appearances. B. SCOTT told Mr. Hill that Rhonda Cowan, a representative of BET, had previously booked B. SCOTT. Mr. Hill then stated that "I have something in mind that will be perfect for you." Subsequently on May 23, 2013, Rhonda Cowan contacted B. SCOTT and offered

B. Scott the job to be the Style Stage Correspondent for the 2013 BET Awards 106
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Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that at all times mentioned

and Park Pre-Show. B. Scott was told that he would be the sole host commenting on fashion during the pre-show activities.
15.

During the discussions on May 23, 2013, Ms. Cowan informed B. SCOTT that

Stephen Hill and BET liked B. SCOTT's look from the dinner party. B. SCOTT was not told that there would be appearance restrictions based on gender expression for B. SCOTT.
16.

occasions, there was never an issue with B. SCOTT`s appearance or manner of

dress. B. SCOTT`s transgender persona and manner of appearance are well-known and obvious. B. SCOTT was engaged by BET Networks and their parent company Viacom.
17.

From May 23, 2013 through June 29, 2013, there was an ongoing dialogue

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the pre-show.
18.

between BETs Rhonda Cowan and Stephanie Hodges, and B. SCOTT about wardrobe and approvals of his outfit for the pre-show. BET and VIACOM had full knowledge of B. Scotts personality and style before hiring him as correspondent for

On June 30, 2013, while B. SCOTT was preparing for the event in his trailer, BET

producers met, talked with, and observed B. SCOTT in his preparation and saw how he appeared (including makeup, the outfit, and heeled shoes). BET staff even took B. SCOTT's outfit to be steamed and readied for his presentation. During the event on June 30, 2013, B. SCOTT was in contact with, aided by, and observed by numerous BET Networks personnel, including stylists, sponsors, producers, and other staff. During the preparations on June 30, 2013, BET`s stylists prepared him for the

show, he wore an outfit that producers had pre-approved a flowing black tunic and black pants. In fact, the night before the show at B. SCOTTs home a BET producer

(Stephanie Hodges) saw and approved the ensemble that B. SCOTT initially wore for the awards show. After dressing, B. SCOTT was escorted to the stage by BET`s production team.
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B. SCOTT had previously appeared on BET's 106 and Park twice. On both

21.

After his first segment, B. SCOTT was literally yanked backstage and told that he

"wasn't acceptable." B. SCOTT was told to mute the makeup, pull back his hair and that he was forced to remove his clothing and take off his heels; thereby completely changing his gender identity and expression. They forced him to change into solely

Mens clothing, different from the androgynous style of dress hes used to, which he

was uncomfortable with. BET and VIACOM made him feel less than his colleagues and made him feel that something was wrong with him as a person.
22.

BET refused to allow B. SCOTT to continue presenting, replacing him with

Adrienne Bailon.
23.

A sponsor corporation`s representative approached B. SCOTT and informed him

that someone on-site from BET had made the decision to pull B. SCOTT from his

duties on account of his transgendered appearance [and that the sponsor corporation

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did not make or approve that decision].
24.

BET and VIACOMs actions publicly and privately humiliated B. SCOTT, and

subjected him to ridicule and unfair treatment on the basis of his gender identity and sexual orientation.

25.

Apparently realizing the error of the situation, the sponsor corporation's

representative made a few phone calls and B. SCOTT was added back at the very end of the show in a diminished capacity as co-host alongside Adrienne Bailon. He

was added back to the show only after a complete change in his wardrobe and appearance.

This action was too little and too late to prevent substantial harm to B. SCOTT`s

public persona and reputation, or to prevent or ameliorate the substantial emotional distress that he was subjected to by the events. Plaintiff is informed and believe that other presenters/correspondents (i.e. such as

Angela Simmons) were given substantial budgets, while B. SCOTT was not given a budget at all and was never paid.

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28.

Plaintiff is informed and believe that other presenters/correspondents received

financial remuneration for their work, either directly or indirectly, which was denied to B. SCOTT on the basis of his gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation.
29.

Therefore, B. SCOTT was clearly mistreated on account of his gender identity and

sexual orientation by one of BET`s management or high-level producers. This

conform to gender norms. No other correspondent was restricted in their hair,

makeup, clothing, or footwear at any time during the pre-show or BET awards. BET has had hordes of females twerking in mini skirts, sparkly bras and other red

carpet/stage wear, without incident. Further, Plaintiff is informed and believe that

BET and VIACOM have no problems in broadcasting imagery objectifying women.

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Plaintiff is informed and believe and it is well known that BET has been criticized

for promoting, in programming, blatant sexism and anti-intellectualism and further intentionally promoting anti-black stereotypes. After discussions with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

(GLADD), BET made the following statement regarding the incidents what they characterized as an apology:

the incident was a singular one with a series of unfortunate miscommunications

from both parties. We regret any unintentional offense to B. Scott and anyone within the LGBT community and we seek to embracing all gender expressions. Plaintiff is informed and believes that BET and VIACOM has had a series of

incidents with gay, lesbian and transgender individual and that the Defendant Corporations do not embrace all gender expressions. On or around July 8, 2013, B. SCOTT filed a California Department of Fair

Employment and Housing complaint against BET for the forms of discrimination alleged herein, and obtained a right to sue letter.
IV.

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CAUSES OF ACTION
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discrimination occurred because B. SCOTTs gender identity and expression did not

Complaint

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION DISCRIMINATION BASED ON GENDER IDENTITY OR GENDER EXPRESSION Government Code 12940(a)
34. 35.

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. B. SCOTT was employed by BET Networks for the purposes of the 106 and Park

Pre-Show. B. SCOTT received compensation from such work in the form of

services, transportation, goods, and directly-provided, not otherwise available publicity.


36.

B. SCOTT also expected to receive compensation and/or future, continued

employment in exchange for his services as a presenter. The services B. SCOTT

performed were such that a reasonable person would expect valuable consideration for their performance.
37.

B. SCOTT initially thought that he was going to get paid for the job and that they

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had a budget for him.
38. 39.

Furthermore, other presenters received remuneration in the form of being provided

budgets and wardrobe for their presentation, while this equal compensation was denied to B. SCOTT on the basis of his status within protected classifications. Defendants, through their agents and employees, engaged in a pattern and practice

of unlawful gender identity and/or gender expression discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (hereinafter "FEHA") in connection with B. SCOTT 's wages, benefits, work assignments, promotion opportunity, training, and the terms and conditions of B. SCOTT's employment, and by participating in, sanctioning, or ratifying the age-based disparate treatment and/or discriminatory working conditions. Further, as stated above, B. Scott was made to mute his makeup, pull back his hair, forced to wear solely mens clothing on set, and prohibited from wearing high heels. No other individual had any such restrictions placed upon them while performing their job as Style Stage Correspondent for the 2013 BET Awards 106 and Park Pre-Show. At all relevant times, Defendants had actual and/or constructive knowledge of the
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discriminatory conduct described and alleged herein, and condoned, ratified and Complaint

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participated in the discrimination. As a result of the hostile and offensive work environment perpetrated and maintained by Defendants, and Defendants' failure to protect B. SCOTT from further discrimination, B. SCOTT suffered severe emotional distress, humiliation and loss of income.
41.

B. SCOTT is informed and believes and thereon alleges that he was disparately

treated during his employment at BET because of his gender identity and expression thereof.
42.

B. SCOTT is informed and believes and thereon alleges that in addition to the

practices enumerated above, Defendants, each and all of them, have engaged in other discriminatory practices against B. SCOTT, which are not yet fully known. At such time as said discriminatory practices become known to B. SCOTT, Plaintiff will seek leave of court to amend this complaint in those regards.

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43. 44.

As a direct and proximate result of the willful, knowing, and intentional

discrimination against B. SCOTT, and the failure to act by Defendants, B. SCOTT has suffered mental distress, anguish, and indignation. B. SCOTT is thereby entitled to general and compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial. Defendants' acts alleged herein are malicious, oppressive, despicable, and in the

conscious disregard of B. SCOTT's rights. As such, punitive damages are warranted against Defendants in order to punish and make an example of each of them. SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION Government Code 12940(a)

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. B. SCOTT was employed by BET Networks for the purposes of the 106 and Park

Pre-Show. B. SCOTT received compensation from such work in the form of services, transportation, goods, and directly-provided, not otherwise available publicity.

47.

B. SCOTT also expected to receive compensation and/or future, continued

employment in exchange for his services as a presenter. The services B. SCOTT


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performed were such that a reasonable person would expect valuable consideration for their performance.
48.

B. SCOTT initially thought that he was going to get paid and that they had a

budget for him.


49.

Furthermore, other presenters received remuneration in the form of being provided

budgets and wardrobe for their presentation, while this equal compensation was denied to B. SCOTT on the basis of his status within protected classifications.
50.

Defendants, through their agents and employees, engaged in a pattern and practice

of unlawful sexual orientation discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (hereinafter "FEHA") in connection with B. SCOTT's wages,

benefits, work assignments, promotion opportunity, training, and the terms and

conditions of B. SCOTTs employment, and by participating in, sanctioning, or

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conditions.
51.

ratifying the age-based disparate treatment and/or discriminatory working

At all relevant times, Defendants had actual and/or constructive knowledge of the

discriminatory conduct described and alleged herein, and condoned, ratified and participated in the discrimination. As a result of the hostile and offensive work environment perpetrated and maintained by Defendants, and Defendants' failure to protect B. SCOTT from further discrimination, B. SCOTT suffered severe emotional distress, humiliation and loss of income.

52.

B. SCOTT is informed and believes and thereon alleges that he was disparately

treated during his employment at BET because of his sexual orientation. B. SCOTT is informed and believes and thereon alleges that in addition to the

practices enumerated above, Defendants, each and all of them, have engaged in other discriminatory practices against B. SCOTT, which are not yet fully known. At such time as said discriminatory practices become known to B. SCOTT, Plaintiff will seek leave of court to amend this complaint in those regards.

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54.

As a direct and proximate result of the willful, knowing, and intentional

discrimination against B. SCOTT, and the failure to act by Defendants, B. SCOTT has suffered mental distress, anguish, and indignation. B. SCOTT is thereby entitled to general and compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial.
55.

Defendants' acts alleged herein are malicious, oppressive, despicable, and in the

conscious disregard of B. SCOTT's rights. As such, punitive damages are warranted against Defendants in order to punish and make an example of each of them. THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION VIOLATION OF THE UNRUH CIVIL RIGHTS ACT Civil Code 51 et seq.
56. 57.

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. B. SCOTT is, was known to Defendants as, and was readily recognizable as both

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gay and transgender.

Each and every Defendant, as described herein, was motivated by prejudice

against B. SCOTT.

59.

Defendants violated B. SCOTTs rights under California Civil Code Section 51.5

by discriminating, boycotting, blacklisting, or refusing to contract or trade with B. SCOTT on account of his characteristics of sexual orientation and/or gender, and/or gender expression, which are characteristics protected thereunder by inclusion in Civil Code Section 51(b) and 51(e).

60.

As a proximate result of Defendants' wrongful conduct, B. SCOTT suffers

damages as set forth elsewhere within this complaint. Defendants' acts alleged herein are malicious, oppressive, despicable, and in the

conscious disregard of B. SCOTTs rights. As such, punitive damages are warranted against Defendants in order to punish and make an example of each of them. FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION BREACH OF CONTRACT

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. B. SCOTT and Defendants entered into an implied contract for services.
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64.

B. SCOTT performed (or was excused from performing) all (or substantially all)

material and significant things required by the contract.


65. 66. 67.

All conditions required for Defendants performance under the contract were met. Defendants breached the implied contract for services.

Defendants breached the implied contract for services by, inter alia, failing to

provide the agreed-to compensation.


68.

their duty of good faith and fair dealing.


69.

As a proximate result of Defendants' breach of their contract, B. SCOTT suffers

damages as set forth elsewhere within this complaint.

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY

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70. 71.

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. B. SCOTT was unlawfully constructively discharged as a result of the

fundamental alteration of his terms and conditions of employment due to the discrimination he suffered.

72.

B. SCOTTs unlawful constructive termination from his employment with BET is

based upon Defendants violation of public policy, including but not limited to, the fundamental public policies against discrimination based on his gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

73.

As a further proximate result of such conduct, B. SCOTT has suffered loss of

income, loss of promotions, loss of career opportunities, and loss of tangible job benefits, all in amounts to be proven at trial. Defendants, and each of them, did the acts alleged herein maliciously, fraudulently

and oppressively, with the wrongful intent to injure B. SCOTT, from an improper and evil motive amounting to malice, and in conscious disregard of B. SCOTTs rights. The acts complained of were known to, authorized and ratified by Defendants. B. SCOTT is therefore entitled to recover punitive damages from Defendants, and each of them, in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.
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Defendants breached the implied contract for services by, inter alia, breaching

SIXTH CAUSE OF ACTION INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS


75. 76.

Plaintiff incorporates by reference the factual allegations of the above paragraphs. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendant BET by and

through its agents, employees, decided without regard to the health and safety of B. SCOTT, and all and each of them treated B. SCOTT in the deplorable manner

and outrageous conduct by Defendants.


77.

Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendants, standing in

a position of authority over B. SCOTT, acted with deliberation without regard to the health, safety, or well-being of B. SCOTT and caused him severe emotional and physical distress.
78.

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79. V.

Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that as a proximate result of

Defendants extreme and outrageous acts, B. SCOTT suffered severe emotional distress in the form of humiliation, embarrassment, mental-anguish, anxiety, stress and indignation. Defendants acts were done with the willful knowledge that B. SCOTT could suffer severe harm as a result thereof. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendants acts alleged

herein are malicious, oppressive, despicable, and in conscious disregard of B. SCOTTs rights. As such, punitive damages are warranted against Defendants in order to punish them and make an example of their actions. PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, PLAINTIFF prays for relief as follows: For general damages in an amount in excess of two million five hundred thousand dollars ($2,500,000.00) and in no event in an amount less than the jurisdictional limit of this court; For special damages in amounts according to proof; For punitive damages in amounts according to proof; For attorneys' fees as provided by law;
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alleged herein. That treatment and its surrounding consequences constituted extreme

5. 6. 7.

For interest as provided by law; For cost of suit incurred herein; and For such other and further relief as the Court deems fair and just. LAW OFFICES OF WAUKEEN McCOY

Dated: August 6, 2013

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__________________________ WAUKEEN McCOY, ESQ. ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF BRANDON SESSOMS, a.k.a. B. SCOTT