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Asian American Actress Sues Studio

First published in the Oct. 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

By City News Service

A former employee is suing a Burbank-based studio, alleging she was forced to quit in 2020 in large part because of a supervisor’s derogatory comments about the Asian American plaintiff’s eyes.
Olivia Cordell’s Los Angeles Superior Court complaint — filed Wednesday against Gen Z Studios LLC and her former supervisor, Joseph Lackey — comes 14 months after ex-Gen Z producer Scarlet Sheppard filed a separate suit, alleging she overheard Lackey say he needed to “fire, bribe or strangle” his female employees to get them to do what he wanted.
Cordell is an actress, writer and YouTube personality who was hired as a producer in May 2019, according to her suit, which alleges gender discrimination and harassment, wrongful constructive termination, whistleblower retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Cordell seeks unspecified damages. A Gen Z attorney did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Starting in July 2019, Lackey often told Cordell during photographing and filming to, “Open your eyes, Olivia. Your eyes look closed on all of the photos,” often laughing during the comments, the suit states.
Lackey also frequently told Cordell that there were things she could not do on camera because her eyes were too small and that she could not look wide-eyed and shocked due to her national origin, the suit states.
In June 2020, Lackey joked that his next wife would be a “Korean girl,” the suit states.
“Ms. Cordell felt humiliated as a result of this,” the suit states.
The plaintiff told Lackey three months later that she wanted a month off to be with her family, including her mother, who had contracted COVID-19, the suit states.
Cordell returned in October 2020 saying she only wanted to work one to two days a month to avoid COVID-19 exposure, but Lackey said he “didn’t know if we could make it work,” the suit states.
Another producer told Cordell that someone else had taken her job and that if she returned, she would probably lose her position anyway because there were “too many Asians on the channel,” the suit states.
Fed up with the alleged workplace harassment, Cordell “chose to not return,” the suit states.
Cordell has suffered past and future income loss as well as emotional distress, according to her suit.

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