Nas’ Mass Appeal Sued By Ex Employee For Racial Discrimination
A documentary producer who worked for Nas’ Mass Appeal has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company accusing the firm of “creating a hostile work environment” before terminating her employment.
On Tuesday, Melissa Cooper filed a discrimination lawsuit in New York City claiming she was the victim of “venomous and racist comments about ‘White folk’ and ‘crackers,’” before being fired, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cooper worked as head of development at Mass Appeal and believes her race played a role in her mistreatment and subsequent termination.
She accuses the company’s chief executive Peter Bittenbender, who is also white, and Jenya Meggs, the senior VP for partnerships & content acquisition, who is Black, of discriminating “against her by removing her from several high-value projects, creating a hostile work environment, and terminating her employment.”
Much of the racially charged allegations stem around Mass Appeal’s involvement in “Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told,” a highly-anticipated documentary coming to Hulu in 2024. According to photos of text messages and other evidence used in the case, Meggs became upset that Cooper is listed as an executive producer on the documentary along with Bittenbender.
In texts between Meggs and Terry Ross, a “Freaknik” executive producer who is Black, Meggs credited Cooper’s EP role on the project to “Usual white folk behavior.’” In separate messages, Meggs complained about Bittenbender failing to hire a candidate she referred to Mass Appeal.
“These white folk something else,” Ross wrote in response.
After Meggs brought on a personal friend to fulfill a human resources role, the new HR manager was asked to serve as “an unbiased mediator” between Meggs and Cooper. Once tensions flared over various projects, Meggs reportedly claimed she refused to work with Cooper.
As a result, “Bittenbender removed Cooper from a number of projects, including Mass Appeal’s Hip Hop 50 Live concert at Yankee Stadium planned for August 11, 2023,” the lawsuit states.
“Cooper’s removal from this important project, along with others Meggs was staffed on, effectively stripped Cooper of her primary role at Mass Appeal.”
Cooper was fired in June 2023, “while continuing to employ Meggs,” the suit states.
Nas is not named in the lawsuit, he is a partner in Mass Appeal which is named throughout the suit.