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Broadway Shows: Always Entertaining and this Time, Educational

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Recent controversy over casting calls for the hit Broadway show “Hamilton” has raised an issue for employers about the danger of using discriminatory criteria in job ads.

The show is based on a unique format in that, while the costumes and set design reflect the 18th century, the actors portraying the historical characters, such as Alexander Hamilton (the eponymous historical figure for the show), Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are all played by African-American, Latino, and other actors with ethnically diverse backgrounds. Hamilton has been a runaway hit since it opened in August 2015.

Because of its success, producers began planning a national tour and put out a casting call for “nonwhite men and women, ages 20s to 30s.”

The ads drew immediate criticism from Actors Equity (AE), the union representing theater actors. AE argued that the casting call was regulated by the union’s rules, and that Hamilton’s producers violated those rules. The producers subsequently agreed to amend the language to indicate that people of all races and ethnicities are welcome to audition, while stating that the show remains committed to hiring a diverse cast.

No litigation has been initiated, and the moral of this story is that while advertising diversity as a goal is permissible, exclusionary rules, such as those used by Hamilton’s producers are not. The message is clear – no matter the industry, employers should avoid using any such criteria in recruiting desired job candidates.

Hilary Atkins

Posted In: Legal

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