A contestant on the second season of the Netflix reality show Love is Blind is suing the show’s streamer and producers, accusing them of a number of labor law violations, including promoting “inhumane working conditions” and paying actors less than the minimum wage. .
The lawsuit, filed by Jeremy Hartwell, alleges that the producers of Love is Blind drugged the actors with alcohol and deprived them of food and water while paying rates that were below the Los Angeles County minimum wage. The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, lists Netflix, production company Kinetic Content and casting company Kinetic Delirium TV as defendants.
Diversity reached out to Netflix and Kinetic Content for comment.
Hartwell, a director of a mortgage company in Chicago, claims he spent several days recovering from lack of sleep, lack of access to food and water, and the large amounts of alcohol he was given. The second season of Love is Blind premiered on Netflix in February 2022.
According to the lawsuit, Love is Blind members should have been classified under California law as employees rather than independent contractors because the producers dictated the timing, methods and means of their work. During production, the producers paid the contestants a flat rate of $1,000 a week, despite forcing them to work up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week. According to the complaint, this is only $7.14 an hour, well below the Los Angeles County minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.
The show’s producers “deliberately underpaid the actors, deprived them of food, water and sleep, made them drunk on booze and cut off their access to personal contacts and most of the outside world. It made the actors crave social connection and changed their emotions and decision-making process,” said lawyer Chantal Payton of Payton Employment Law, the Los Angeles-based firm that represents Hartwell.
Hartwell’s lawsuit purports to be a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all the participants in Love Is Blind and other non-scripted productions created by the defendants over the past four years. Payton Employment Law estimates a potential class size of more than 100 plaintiffs.
According to Hartwell’s lawsuit, the show’s contracts required contestants to agree that if they left the show before filming was completed, they would have to pay $50,000 as an “estimated cost”. The lawsuit alleges that the reality show contestants “either sincerely fear retribution and damage to their reputation for any resistance to the orders of those who hold the purses, or they are unaware of their rights.”
Payton said in a statement provided by his lawyers, “Reality TV production and casting companies have far more control over contestants than the law allows an employee to truly be considered an independent contractor, especially in a show where the actors are supposedly looking for love.”
Kinetic Content, in addition to Love Is Blind, also produces the reality show Ultimatum: Get Married or Quit, which debuted this year on Netflix, and Married at First Sight, created in 2014 and streaming on Lifetime and streams on Netflix.
In “Love Is Blind,” the participants – 15 men and 15 women – meet their dates from separate “pods” and talk through speakers without seeing each other. The two contestants must become engaged before they are allowed to meet face-to-face, which for some contestants results in an on-screen marriage and for others, a breakup on their wedding day. Love Is Blind just received a 2022 Emmy Award nomination for Structured Reality Program (and received two Emmy Award nominations in 2020) and spawned a Brazilian and a Japanese version.
The third season of Love Is Blind, filmed in Dallas, is due out on Netflix later this year.
“The combination of sleep deprivation, isolation, lack of food, and excess alcohol—everything that was required, permitted, or encouraged by the defendants—contributed to inhumane working conditions and a change in the mental state of the actors,” Hartwell said in the complaint. “Sometimes the defendants left the actors alone for several hours without access to the phone, food or any other contact with the outside world, until they needed to return to work on the production.”
Hartwell’s lawsuit seeks unpaid wages, financial compensation for missed lunch breaks and rest periods, as well as unspecified monetary damages for unfair business practices and civil penalties for violations of the labor code.
The lawsuit was filed June 29 in the California Supreme Court for the District of Los Angeles. Case number 22STCV1223.
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