WGA Joins Reality Class-Action Lawsuit

Aug 24, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Writers Guild of America West said it has joined a class-action lawsuit on behalf of reality TV storytellers who are suing former employers for unpaid compensation.

At a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the WGA-W announced it filed a suit charging Fox Broadcasting and production company Rocket Science Laboratories with violations of California’s labor laws governing payment of overtime, wages and meal periods.

More than 30 reality crew members from Rocket Science shows as “Joe Millionaire,” “Trading Spouses” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé” attended the press conference. Ten of the crew members are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

“For fair wages and some semblance of fair working conditions … we are proud to devote our resources to this fight,” said WGA-W President Daniel Petrie Jr.

Tony Segall, WGA-W legal counsel and attorney for the plaintiffs, said the group is seeking a “very, very substantial number” from the defendants, but the figure has not yet been totaled, since payroll records are still being collected.

The plaintiffs and WGA allege reality show workers were told to falsify their timecards, denied meals and made to work up to 80 hours a week without being paid overtime.

“A short day was 15 hours long, if you left before midnight you were considered a slacker,” said plaintiff Victoria Dew, who worked on Fox’s “Renovate My Family.” “And that is fine-except we were not compensated, and that’s illegal.”

This is second such lawsuit the WGA-W has backed in recent months. Mr. Petrie noted the suit is part of an overall WGA strategy to unionize reality show employees.

“We hope this will make it clear to the industry that they have enormous potential liability by not having them work under a collective bargaining agreement,” he said.

Fox and Rocket Science had no comment.