Kanye West accused of discrimination and harassment by former employee

Kanye West has been accused of discrimination.
Kanye West has been accused of discrimination. Photo credit: Getty Images

A former employee of Kanye West has filed suit accusing the controversial artist of harassment, discrimination and retaliation, among other allegations.

Trevor Phillips filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the rapper, whose legal name is Ye, as well as his Yeezy company and his Los Angeles-based K-12 Christian private school Donda Academy.

In the suit obtained by CNN, Phillips alleges that West "treated the black staff considerably worse than white employees," calling the discrimination "severe."

"Even when class was in session, Kanye would scream and berate black employees, while never even as much raising his tone at the white staff," the suit alleges. "Often, Kanye targeted Phillips – a black man – not just with this disparate and harassing behavior, but complete and utter disdain."

The former employee further alleges that he witnessed West "spew forth hate, profess antisemitic tropes and lies, threaten the LGBTQ+ community, and even on one occasion, almost sexually stimulate himself."

CNN has reached out to a representative for West for comment.

"Already at a disadvantage because of his skin color, once Phillips pushed back against Kanye's bigotry and instructions to violate the law, he became an even bigger target," according to the suit. "In return, Kanye responded mercilessly, with incessant harassment, humiliation, and attempts to both mentally control, and destroy, Phillips. Kanye's ill-will towards the plaintiff ultimately culminated in a vulgar lashing in front of schoolchildren and their parents. Kanye even threatened Phillips with physical violence."

According to the suit, Phillips was hired around November 2022 to work for West's Yeezy fashion brand, but his position eventually expanded to include working at Donda Academy, the school West founded and named for his late mother.

In October 2022, West wore a "White Lives Matter" t-shirt and dressed several Black models in clothing with the same phrase at his YZY runway show at Paris fashion week; the slogan has been linked by the Anti-Defamation League to the Ku Klux Klan.

Then in a 45-minute "Drink Champs" podcast episode later that month, the rapper made numerous outrageous and antisemitic comments that caused financial repercussions for him and his brand partners.

West continued to reiterate his comments that some deemed antisemitic and anti-black.

The suit makes reference to West's comments and social media posts at the time.

"During those interviews, Kanye boastfully and deplorably championed his deep-rooted antisemitism and hate for the Jewish people, echoing tropes that have stereotyped Jews for much of history," the suit states.

The suit also alleges that West "proudly touted his discriminatory conspiracies of Jews during meeting at the Donda Academy." Phillips, it states "on several occasions, witnessed Kanye preach to his staff obscenities."

"Fearing for their jobs and also to de-escalate Kanye's absurdities (so that the two present school children did not hear), the school staff did their best to ignore him," the suit states. "However, in front of the two schoolchildren, Kanye continued his dangerous rhetoric."

Kanye, the suit alleges, "started to openly discuss how he only likes to date white women," and at one point, told two school children "that he wanted them to shave their heads and that he intended to put a jail at the school – and that they could be locked in cages."

The school reportedly shut down in 2023, but the lawsuit says "on information and belief, Donda Academy still operates to this day."

CNN reached out to the Donda Academy for comment. A phone number listed for the school on the California Department of Education website is no longer in service.

In the suit, Phillips also alleges an uncomfortable three hour meeting he says he had with West in which his then-boss raved about Hitler and said "gay people are not true Christians."

The suit states that Phillips' employment with Donda Academy ended in August 2023.

Phillips is seeking a jury trial and a minimum of US$35,000 in damages.

In December 2023, West posted an apology to the Jewish community for any "unintended outburst caused" by his "words or actions."