I knew when I wrote about Stephen Hill leaving or being forced to leave his position at BET that things wouldn’t end there. To be honest, I thought B. Scott or someone with some more detailed, insider information would come out and share the real reason why Stephen Hill left.
Instead, a new player has emerged.
When we reported about Hill’s departure, we mentioned that his Executive Vice President, Zola Mashariki would be leaving as well.
But apparently, after the news broke, Mashariki stepped forward to say “not so fast.”
According to reports from The Jasmine Brand, Mashariki is threatening to sue.
A source stated that Mashariki “was receiving calls and she had no idea what people were talking about because she never accepted any kind of deal or was told to leave.”
The reason Mashariki might have a viable lawsuit on her hands is because she was diagnosed wtih breast cancer in December and is still under contract.
The Jasmine Brand released the memo she reportedly sent a BET staff member explaining that she was placed on medical leave on Feb. 6 with a tentative return date of April 11, taking the outcome of her upcoming surgery into account.
“I heard yesterday that Stephen was leaving BET. I’m concerned that there was a reference to me, as Stephen’s departure is a separate issue from my status at the company. Here are the facts: I am on medical leave. My job is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act and related statutes (FMLA) and I have a contract in place. Viacom/BET are aware that I am scheduled to return on April 11 and that my medical leave may need to be extended depending on the progress of my recovery,” she wrote. “Bob Bakish has said our company values should be honesty, empathy and bravery. I agree with this wholeheartedly and our team has embodied this over the 2 years we have worked together. Without question, including me in Stephen’s departure announcement is not in keeping with those values. I am continuing to focus on improving my health. I have faith in the Viacom/BET leadership and know they will fix this. I have a long history in Hollywood and am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received across the entire industry during this difficult time. Our Original Programming team has accomplished a lot in a short time and the filmmakers and community are excited to work with us again. There is so much more to do.”
With Mashariki’s announcement, there are even more theories circulating about regarding the nature of Stephen and possibly Zola’s departure.
One is that Stephen was fired because he doubted Zola’s claims of having breast cancer and he was attempting to gain access to her medical files. Allegedly, the matter escalated to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and he decided to terminate Hill for the indiscretion.
There’s another that Debra Lee was actually the one behind it all. And she fired Mashriki along with Hill to make it seem as if the firings were a result of a Viacom restructuring.
And then there’s another theory that Mashariki had already been fired before she took her sick leave.
A source told The Jasmine Brand: ” She was terminated as a result of her own performance prior to taking medical leave. They then allowed her to keep her contract, so she was able to keep her salary and benefits after being diagnosed. She is definitely terminated.”
There are those who believe it was simply a mistake on Debra Lee’s part and believes it would make her look bad if she had to issue a retraction.
Either way, we’re sure this won’t be the last time we’re hearing about this.