Former “The Young and the Restless” star Victoria Rowell’s lawsuit against CBS and Sony Pictures Television is beginning to take dramatic turns worthy of a soap opera.
Sony Pictures Television and CBS have moved to dismiss Rowell’s lawsuit, filed in February, contending, among other things, that Rowell’s demands violate the First Amendment.
In a sharply worded memorandum in support of the motion filed in U.S. district court in New York, attorneys for CBS and Sony claim that Rowell’s suit is “a blatant attempt by Plaintiff to force her way back onto a daytime television soap opera, after she voluntarily resigned from her role in 2007.”
The memo goes on to claim that Rowell’s claims “are barred as a matter of law.”
“Plaintiff boldly asks this District Court to order Defendants to put her back on television, and she complains about why she believes Defendants have not already done so. Her allegations, however, fail to state a cognizable claim against both Sony Pictures and CBS and are barred as a matter of law. Thus, Plaintiff’s claims fail in their entirety and should be dismissed,” the memo reads.
The lawyers argue that casting and script decisions are protected free speech, and ordering CBS and Sony to make those decisions for Rowell’s benefit would run contrary to the First Amendment.
“Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution. Casting and script-writing decisions, such as those Plaintiff now complains, constitute protected free speech,” the motion reads. “Indeed, any order ‘directing’ Defendants to create a role or story line on either Y&R or B&B for Plaintiff and cast Plaintiff, as she requests … would constitute the Court compelling Defendants’ speech, in clear violation of the First Amendment.”
Rowell’s lawsuit contends that the actress, who played Drucilla on “The Young and the Restless,” wasn’t re-hired in retaliation for her “public and private complaints regarding the lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera on the show.”
She claims that she also attempted to join “Y&R’s” sister soap “The Bold and the Beautiful,” but was denied.
In the memo, lawyers for Sony and CBS contend that Rowell fails to state a claim under both the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and federal law, because she cannot show “that there was any open position for which Plaintiff actually applied in the period relevant to this Complaint.” They also argue that she never “exhausted administrative remedies” with CBS, which FEHA requires before filing a lawsuit claiming FEHA violations.
Rowell, who joined “Y&R” in 1990, claims she “reluctantly left the show in 2007 after facing years of racial discrimination.”
CBS and Sony are also asking that the case be moved to California, where “The Young and the Restless” films.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.