The lawsuit was filed by Jeremy Hartwell, who is alleging that “Love is Blind” producers consistently gave the cast alcohol but deprived them of food and water, all while allegedly paying rates lower than Los Angeles’ minimum wage.
Hartwell, a director at a mortgage company in Chicago, claims he “spent several days recovering from the effects of sleep deprivation, lack of access to food and water and copious amounts of alcohol that he was provided,” according to Variety.
According to the lawsuit, contestants should have been classified under California law as employees rather than independent contractors due to producers controlling the timing, manner, and means of their work.
According to Variety, producers paid a flat rate of $1,000 per week. Contestants allegedly were working up to 20 hours per day, seven days a week. If you do the math, that comes to as little as $7.14 per hour. The minimum wage in Los Angeles County is at least $15 per hour.
Variety reports that producers of the show “intentionally underpaid the cast members, deprived them of food, water, and sleep, plied them with booze, and cut off their access to personal contacts and most of the outside world,” said attorney Chantal Payton of Payton Employment Law, the firm representing Hartwell.
“This made cast members hungry for social connections and altered their emotions and decision-making.”
The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of all participants in the show and other non-scripted productions created by the defendants over the past four years. The suit also claims that the show’s contract required the contestants to agree that if they left before shooting was over, they would need to pay $50,000 in “liquidated damages.”
Variety reports that the suit alleges that the cast members “either have a genuine fear of retaliation and harm to their reputation for any resistance to the orders of those holding the purse strings or they aren’t aware of their rights.”
Hartwell’s lawsuit is seeking unpaid wages in addition to financial compensation for missed meals and rest periods, plus monetary damages for unfair business practices and civil penalties for labor code violations.
Hartwell’s suit was filed in the Superior Court of California June 29. An initial status conference is set for September 16.