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Actor Rockmond Dunbar had been a cast member on 9-1-1 since it premiered in 2018, but in November, he suddenly left the Fox drama. Afterward, it was reported that Dunbar had declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and that medical and religious exemptions he sought from the show's vaccine requirement had been rejected.
Three months later, Dunbar has filed a federal lawsuit, accusing Disney and Fox — the show is produced by Disney's 20th Television — of discriminating against him because of his race and religion, Yahoo Entertainment has confirmed.
Dunbar declined to comment.
The lawsuit alleged that while Dunbar, the show's only Black male lead was dismissed, others were able to secure vaccine exemptions. "The administrators who work for [the studios] never took Mr. Dunbar's requests for accommodations seriously," the lawsuit states, according to Variety. "They openly mocked his beliefs and proceeded to deny Mr. Dunbar his accommodations based on nothing more than rank hearsay and assumptions. Defendants refused to believe Mr. Dunbar's doctor’s recommendation, and they refused to engage with Mr. Dunbar in any meaningful interactive communication regarding his religious beliefs."
The actor, who has also appeared in Sons of Anarchy and Prison Break, alleged that he had formally requested exemption from the policy and that he was told by producers that the show could work around him being unvaccinated. However, he was subsequently fired and barred from the set.
— 9-1-1 on FOX (@911onFOX) November 16, 2021
Dunbar said he's owed "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and that he's been painted as a person against all vaccines. As the lawsuit states, he has become "persona non grata in his industry."
Per TMZ, Dunbar is seeking financial compensation and an injunction to keep the studios from discriminating against people in their vaccination rules.
"It should be noted that this is not about the company's right as a private entity to enact a mandatory vaccination policy, nor is it about vaccines," a source familiar with the lawsuit tells Yahoo Entertainment. "What this is about, are studios following federal law and honoring the agreement between the unions and producers in their 'Return to Work' protocols by affording each and every employee regardless of race/religion/medical disability, or sincerely held beliefs, the right to a fair, just, and equal interactive process free of the personal and political bias, discrimination and retaliation by those within the company assigned to oversee such processes. Mr. Dunbar was denied this opportunity. It is Mr. Dunbar's hope that this lawsuit will bring to light the responsibility we all have to uphold the honored laws in this nation and will also serve as a reminder that there is no place or circumstance, even in a pandemic, where racial and religious discrimination should ever be accepted or encouraged."
In response to the filing, 20th Television gave a statement to Yahoo Entertainment:
"To ensure safe working environments at our productions we have implemented a mandatory vaccination confirmation process. While we will not comment on any one individual, each request for exemption is given a thorough review and we grant accommodations consistent with our legal obligations. There are no differences in our process or decision-making based on an employee’s race."