During her Academy Awards acceptance speech for best actress, Frances McDormand displayed her support for the #MeToo movement, asking all female nominees to stand while requesting the men to take note and lend support by financing more women and minority projects. McDormand ended her speech with a statement that left the general public widely confused (and perhaps caused excitement for lawyers specializing in employment contracts): “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Inclusion rider.”
While most viewers took to Google and typed, “What is an inclusion rider?,” Dr. Stacy Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, has written and presented on the topic for years. Smith, together with attorney Kalpana Kotagal of Cohen Milstein and producer/actor Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, developed the idea of a stipulation in Hollywood employment contracts requiring various diversity benchmarks. The inclusion rider could, for example, require “the cast be 50 percent female, 40 percent underrepresented ethnic groups, 20 percent people with disabilities, and 5 percent L.G.B.T. people.” Top actors and actresses who demand such a rider would effectively compel change in the industry and transform the faces of Hollywood to align with those in the real world. As a means of enforcement, the contract could call for stiff penalties or fines if the inclusion terms fail to be met.
The Oscars award ceremony was thick with themes of ending racial and sex-based discrimination and squaring-off against the rampant harassment infecting the industry. But, the entertainment industry is not alone in navigating through these issues. Far too many Americans, from teachers to office workers to lawyers to scientists, have endured harassment and discrimination. We have entered a time of reckoning and reflection and, hopefully, justice.
If you are the victim of discrimination or harassment, you do not have to suffer alone. For more information on your rights and for a free case evaluation, contact the attorneys at Beatty Motil + Black.