A former “Hamilton” cast member filed a federal complaint against the workplace show on Wednesday, alleging the show retaliated and refused to renew a contract after the actor requested a gender-neutral dressing room.
In the complaint, filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, lawyers for the former cast member, Suni Reid (who prefers the pronouns they/them), said they were sidelined and eventually released in September after they presented a gender-neutral requested space at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles where “Hamilton” was playing.
In the 28-page complaint, Reid, a black, non-binary artist who has performed with “Hamilton” productions in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles since 2017, outlined several other instances of discrimination and harassment by cast members and management by the over the years, including episodes where Reid said they were physically threatened or intentionally and repeatedly mis-slaughtered.
The complaint said Reid eventually plans to file legal claims in federal court. Filing a Discrimination and Retaliation Charge with the EEOC is a prelude to filing such a lawsuit.
“In public, ‘Hamilton’ is a beacon of diversity and appears committed to causes seeking social justice and harmony,” Reid’s attorneys Lawrence M. Pearson and Lindsay M. Goldbrum said in a statement. “Behind the curtain, the company’s management will force a black, transgender cast member simply because they stood up for themselves and advocated for a more equitable workplace, therefore questioning that public image.”
“We look forward to upholding Reid’s rights and hope this is a wake-up call to the theater industry about the systemic inequality that persists even at its greatest height,” the statement continued.
In his own statement, “Hamilton” said on Wednesday that Reid had been “a valued cast member” for years and said the show had “offered them a contract to return to ‘Hamilton’ with terms that were responsive to their requests.”
“We deny the allegations in the indictment,” the show said. “We have not discriminated against or retaliated against Suni.” During the shutdown, it added: “We have given Suni direct financial support, paid for their health insurance and paid for their housing. We wish Suni the best in their future endeavors.”
Reid has appeared in the ensemble and in roles such as Aaron Burr, George Washington, Hercules Mulligan/James Madison and Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, according to the indictment.
It comes as Broadway and touring shows are trying to find their way after a lengthy pandemic-related shutdown. Earlier this summer, as several shows like “Hamilton” prepared to restart, some of the most powerful players on Broadway signed a pact pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices.
But Reid’s complaint paints a picture of a toxic work environment in “Hamilton” that stretched from coast to coast.
Reid was cast in the Broadway production of the show in 2017 and met hostility from the start, according to the complaint. Reid eventually requested a transfer from the Broadway production and began working with the Chicago troupe “Hamilton” in March 2019 according to the complaint, coming out publicly as transgender and gender-nonconforming. According to the indictment, they were constantly misled by colleagues, “sometimes in a decidedly hostile or heartless manner”.
In 2020, Reid had begun rehearsals for the company in Los Angeles, but due to the shutdown, he was never able to participate in the cast’s performance in Los Angeles, the complaint said.
In May, Reid was offered a contract extension for “Hamilton”. Around that time, they asked their agent, Michele Largé, to request a gender-neutral dressing room at Pantages for Reid and others to use. “Hamilton” officials then expressed concern about posts Reid posted on social media describing racial equality issues on the show, according to the complaint.
The show would eventually agree to set up gender-neutral changing rooms in every “Hamilton” theater. But in the fall, after Reid’s attorneys informed the show that they had legal claims of discrimination, the show told Reid’s attorneys that it was “no longer open” to let Reid perform in “Hamilton” and that “renewal of their contract is no longer an option,” the complaint said.