Networks, producers will pay $4.11 million to settle reality workers’ overtime lawsuits

Two 2005 class-action lawsuits against two reality TV production companies and several networks have been settled for $4.11 million. Shriver v. Rocket Science Laboratories (which includes Fox) has been settled for $2.57 million, while Sharp v. Next Entertainment (which includes CBS, ABC, and six others) has been settled for $1.54 million.

Both settlements say that the defendants “continue to deny all liability.” The law firm Rothner, Segall, Greenstone & Leheny says on its web site that the lawsuits include “story development employees” and in the case of Rocket Science’s shows, “the class also includes editors and employees who performed editing services on the shows.” Those who worked in any of those positions have until April 14 to file a claim.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Emma Leheny told TV Barn’s Aaron Barnhart, “I’d like to say as a plaintiff’s attorney that I cured cancer, that this case brought these violations to an end. But we know they still go on.”

The shows covered include Next Entertainment’s The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Trista and Ryan’s Wedding special, The Starlet, The Will, and The Real Gilligan’s Island, and Rocket Science Laboratories’ Trading Spouses, Joe Millionaire, The Next Joe Millionaire, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, Renovate My Family, Seriously, Dude, I’m Gay, and Married by America.

The firm has copies of both original complaints and the settlements on its web site: Sharp v. Next Entertainment [PDF] (settlement agreement [PDF]) and Shriver v. Rocket Science [PDF] (settlement agreement [PDF]).

The 2005 lawsuit against Rocket Science said that plaintiffs “were required to falsify their time cards” and “worked far in excess of 40 hours per week during virtually every week of their employment, but they never received any premium overtime pay.”

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