Former 9-1-1 Star Rockmond Dunbar Files A Lawsuit Over Firing From The Fox Series

9-1-1 lost a key character in the first half of Season 5 with the departure of Michael Grant, who left his kids and ex-wife behind in L.A. to join his neurosurgeon fiancé on a mission trip to help the people of Haiti. It was an abrupt departure explained later by actor Rockmond Dunbar and Disney-owned production company 20th Television as caused by Dunbar declining to take the COVID-19 vaccine after being denied accommodations. Now, Dunbar has filed a lawsuit over what he claims was a termination from the hit Fox show

Rockmond Dunbar filed a lawsuit against Disney and 20th Television in the U.S. District Court to claim (via Deadline) that after being denied a medical exemption and religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine protocol, the parent company and production company “terminated Mr. Dunbar’s employment agreement” and also “refused to pay him the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are still owed to him.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Disney and 20th Television “wrongfully leaked negative information to the media” in order to deliberately make it sound like Dunbar was an anti-vaxxer, rather than “present the truth” that Dunbar adheres to religious beliefs that exist outside the mainstream and bar him from vaccination. In the suit, Dunbar is said to adhere to “the Church of Universal Wisdom.” 

Rockmond Dunbar is seeking upward of $1.3 million in compensation due to the alleged violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the California Fair Employment Housing Act, and principles of contract law, among other claimed damages. The suit claims that Dunbar received “disparate treatment” and discrimination “on the basis of his race,” accusing Disney of a “history of racial discrimination.” According to the filing, non-minority employees who requested medical or religious exemption were able to decline the COVID-19 vaccine without being “subject to termination.” 

At the time of writing, neither Disney nor 20th Television has specifically addressed Rockmond Dunbar’s lawsuit, but a representative for 20th Television did release a statement (via TMZ) regarding its practices for granting and refusing accommodations for the COVID-19 vaccine, saying:

To ensure safe working environments at our productions we have implemented a mandatory vaccination confirmation process. While we will not comment on any one individual, each request for exemption is given a thorough review and we grant accommodations consistent with our legal obligations. There are no differences in our process or decision-making based on an employee’s race.

9-1-1 was not the only television production to require COVID vaccination for the 2021-2022 TV season. Rockmond Dunbar’s lawsuit was only just filed on February 17, so it may be some time before there’s any resolution, but it’s likely that this rules out 9-1-1 bringing back Michael anytime soon, if at all. The character left in a way that suggested he would be back at some point, and his kids do both still live in Los Angeles, so it should be interesting to see if Michael remains MIA with his fiancé or returns and simply remains off screen. 

For now, 9-1-1 is scheduled to make its 2022 return on Monday, March 21 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, when it will bump spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star back to 9 p.m. ET in the 2022 TV schedule. The winter finale saw Eddie make a big decision about his future at the 118, and a time jump is on the way that could potentially result in more information on what’s going on with Michael. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).