Netflix faces a new lawsuit as a former “Love Is Blind” contestant is suing the company and show producers for alleged labor-law violations, including creating “inhumane working conditions” and underpaying cast members.
Season 2 hopeful Jeremy Hartwell filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles County Superior Court against Netflix, production company Kinetic Content and Kinetic’s casting company Delirium TV on June 29, Variety reported.
In the lawsuit, he accused “Love Is Blind” producers of plying the cast with alcohol and depriving them of food and water during production.
The 36-year-old, who works as a director at a mortgage company in Chicago, claimed that 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.
“The combination of sleep deprivation, isolation, lack of food, and an excess of alcohol all either required, enabled or encouraged by defendants contributed to inhumane working conditions and altered mental state for the cast,” Hartwell’s complaint alleged. “At times, defendants left members of the cast alone for hours at a time with no access to a phone, food or any other type of contact with the outside world until they were required to return to working on the production.”
Hartwell also alleged that the cast members were paid less than Los Angeles County’s minimum wage of at least $15 per hour.
The lawsuit stated that “Love Is Blind” contestants were classified as independent contractors instead of employees despite producers having full control of the timing, manner and means of their work.
According to the complaint, contestants worked up to 20 hours a day, seven days per week, but were paid only a flat rate of $1,000 per week, which meant they were getting paid around $7.14 per hour.
Hartwell’s attorney Chantal Payton claimed in a statement that the alleged actions of the team behind the show were intentional.
“[Producers] 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. This made cast members hungry for social connections and altered their emotions and decision-making,” Payton said.
Hartwell’s lawsuit also said that their contracts with “Love Is Blind” required contestants to pay $50,000 in liquidated damages if they wanted to leave the show before production wrapped.
The lawsuit alleged that reality show 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.”
“Reality show production and casting companies exert a lot more control over the contestants than the law allows for a worker to truly be considered an independent contractor, especially in shows where cast members are supposedly searching for love,” Payton said in a statement obtained by Variety.
Hartwell’s lawsuit is “a proposed class action” with himself and any person who signed a similar agreement with Netflix or either of the production companies within four years of his filing.
Payton Employment Law, the L.A.-based firm that is representing Hartwell, estimated the potential size of the plaintiff class to be “more than 100 individuals.”
In addition to “Love Is Blind,” Kinetic Content is also responsible for producing “Married at First Sight” and “The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On,” which aired in 2014 and 2022, respectively.
“Love Is Blind” first aired on Netflix in February 2020. It earned two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations in 2020 and was recently nominated for an Emmy for structured reality program.
Season 3 of “Love Is Blind” will premiere on Netflix later this year.