Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on discrimination in casting calls for the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” Although specifying race, age, and gender is legal in audition calls, the Actors’ Equity Association, a union organization, generally checks the audition notices before going out. The notices for Hamilton, which posted from late 2015, were not reviewed by Actors’ Equity. They have sparked discussion over the formalities and procedures to avoiding discrimination in audition calls.
Firstly, because musicals and theatre have specific roles to fill, seeking “nonwhite men and women,” and then specifying ages, is legal for companies to do. The legal principle of “bona fide occupation qualification” was cited in the article. This principle allows casting producers and directors to consider specific characteristics as factors for who is hired for specific positions.
Although having qualifications for auditions was appropriate, what was not included in the audition notices became a big concern. Typically, an audition notice will follow procedures, including a call to all ethnicities and racial backgrounds. The article states that audition notices usually include a line such as, “Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to attend.” The production of Hamilton did not have this caveat in its notices, and so many felt it was discriminatory.
If you have questions or concerns about discrimination in the workplace, or other employment law concerns, please contact employment attorney Steven Mitchell Sack at 917-371-8000.