Reality Show Staffers Settle Lawsuits
Jason Mesnick, The Bachelor
Two lawsuits between reality show staffers and TV networks and production companies over unlawful working conditions have been settled for more than $4 million, The Hollywood Reporter reports.
Several hundred employees of such shows as The Bachelor, Trading Spouses, Are You Hot? and The Real Gilligan's Island filed class-action lawsuits in 2005, stating that Fox, ABC, CBS and other companies ordered them to fake time cards and work overtime with few meal breaks.
A Los Angeles judge this week granted preliminary approval to a $2.57 million settlement with Fox Broadcasting and Rocket Science Laboratories and a separate $1.54 million one with ABC, CBS, Mike Fleiss' Next Entertainment and six other production companies. "I hope this settlement provides a disincentive to engage in any future employment law violations," said Emma Leheny, lead counsel for the employees. "It sends a message that this section of the television industry can't make up its own rules."
Reality staffers have complained for years about being exploited, claiming production companies took advantage of the freshness of the genre and ambiguous loopholes to overwork them to keep costs low. The employees drew early support from the Writers Guild of America, which organized a campaign to recognize reality show story editors as writers, because they create the plots and narratives, an effort that ultimately proved futile due to last year's strike.
The settlement is currently awaiting final approval by a judge. Should it be granted, approximately 400 staffers will split the settlement based on how many hours each worked, with about 20 workers receiving an additional $8,250.