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Hollywood Agency That Represents Regina King, Spike Lee, and More Slammed for Using Black Assistants as ‘Props’ and Mistreating Female Employees

Talent and literary agency ICM Partners is facing a lot of backlash after the Los Angeles Times released an exposé article about the toxic workplace culture at the company that represents Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Shonda Rhimes, and more.

The May 5 piece listed out several incidents from over 30 former and current ICM employees making accusations of sexual harassment, bullying, sexual assault, in the workplace, as well as deception about the diversity in the company’s staff.

Regina King attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Matt Petit/Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences via Getty Images)

The Times details a racial incident that occurred in 2019, where a couple of Black assistants at the company were asked to be a part of a promotional video. They were asked to act as agent-trainees to give the appearance that the company had a diverse upper-level staff. Jabari McDonald, who was a media rights assistant at the time, was one of those people asked to step in for the video.

McDonald told Times that he, “figured his role would be to sit in the background so the room wouldn’t appear empty,” but was instead told to “sit next to a line of white agent-trainees” with two other Black employees for diversity. But McDonald saw this as misleading, especially since he and the other Black employees were not actually in the agent-trainee program.

He said, “You wouldn’t have to use Black assistants as props if there were enough Black people here that could naturally be here in this program. The situation could have been mitigated if they pay people more and if they stopped giving priority to nepotism hires.”

In response to the numerous accusations, ICM said in a statement to the Times that “HR does not have any records of such allegations.” They added that the company “does not tolerate harassment, bullying or other inappropriate conduct. HR investigates all reports received and addresses each with appropriate disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.”

Last year, about three months into the pandemic, ICM Partners announced its plan to cut 40 staffers to make way for the new changes they had coming. Among those changes, the company vowed to raise their assistants’ pay to $20 an hour and said they would ensure half of the new hires would be filled by diverse contenders.

But, according to McDonald, “It’s a lot of talk and very little action. They’re putting on the performance that they are putting in the work, and behind the scenes they are not.”

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