A Love is Blind season five participant—who was not included in any of the episodes that streamed on Netflix—says in a lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted on camera by the person she met in the pods.
Tran Dang’s lawsuit was filed more than a year ago, and has been in court since, with lawyers debating questions such as what company is being sued (Kinetic Content or its subsidiary Delirium TV), whether this should go to arbitration, and what kinds of footage the plaintiffs can receive during discovery.
People magazine first reported on the lawsuit, but framed its story not on Dang herself, but the response from Love is Blind creator Chris Coelen. He said producers were “never told that she felt unsafe or experienced any of the allegations that she made.”
The lawsuit says the opposite; that Dang “detailed the assault and reported that she was uncomfortable being around [her Love is Blind fiancé],” and “producers made attempts to mask Plaintiff’s sexual assault by characterizing it as a lack of attraction.”
In a statement to People, the production company, Kinetic Content said, in part,
“We support and stand with victims of sexual assault, but Ms. Dang’s claims against the producers are meritless. We document the independent choices of adults who volunteer to participate in a social experiment.”
After People published its story, I searched public records to find Tran Dang’s lawsuit. Deadline ended up publishing it first.
In court records, though, I found far more interesting and newsworthy documents:
- the actual Love is Blind participant agreement, i.e. the contract that cast members sign
- Kinetic Content’s Employee Handbook, which was signed by cast member Tran Dang
- e-mail between production and Dang
Both of those unredacted documents have been public record since February, as part of court records maintained by the Harris County District Clerk, and are publicly accessible on its website.
Those documents are below. First, though, some other fascinating revelations about Love is Blind from other documents.
Love is Blind’s filming schedule
An e-mail message from casting included this “outline regarding important dates for Love Is Blind” season five:
- Filming takes place over the course of 7 weeks: 4/16/22-6/6/22 (7 weeks total, 3 away from work)
- For the first 3 weeks (4/16/22-5/7/22), you will need to be fully off work and unplugged (you will have no access to any electronic devices)
- If you get engaged in the pods, you will go on a getaway. Upon your return home, you will resume life as normal while we film in the evenings and on the weekends for the remainder of filming
Are Love is Blind’s cast members employees?
Last summer, I reported on another Love is Blind participant’s lawsuit, which claimed Kinetic Content and Netflix “willfully misclassified employees as independent contractors” who “were in reality employees that were entitled to protections under California law.”
Dang’s lawsuit has a similar claim: “Plaintiff asserts that Delirium TV and Kinetic Content were her employers.”
The Love is Blind Participant Release and Agreement includes this clause:
I agree that my appearance as a participant on the Program is not a performance and is not employment and is not subject to any union or guild collective bargaining agreement, and does not entitle me to wages, salary, corporate benefits, workers ‘compensation benefits, or other compensation under any such collective bargaining agreement or otherwise
However, in the court records, there is a letter to Kinetic Content from a representative for RSUI Indemnity Company, which insures both Kinetic and Delirium TV, and which says, incredibly,
It is RIC’s understanding that both, the plaintiff, Tran Dang, and the individually named defendant (Thomas Smith) are past employees of the Insured and as such, qualify as Insured Persons under the policy.
The letter also says, however, that “this matter is not covered under the Policy.”
Dang was also sent an e-mail message detailing how to “start work” in Kinetic’s systems and set up direct deposit.
One kind of hilarious thing about this is the considerable legal back-and-forth about Kinetic Content versus Delirium TV, including a statement from a Kinetic vice president claiming Delirium is a separate company that ran the production, and yet the correspondence sent to Tran Dang comes from people at Kinetic Content, with Kinetic Content e-mail addresses, and the two companies share a physical office.
Finally, a statement from Dang says this: “While I was in Houston, I also received a ‘Welcome Packet’ from Kinetic Content staff. The ‘Welcome Packet’ included Kinetic Content’s ‘Production Employee Handbook’ outlining the company’s policies and explaining about payroll.”
Here is the Production Employee Handbook, which is labeled as Exhibit 7, and again, is part of public records.
I’ve excluded three pages preceding it in the exhibit, which include things such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, parking at the office, and the Wi-Fi password. In many ways, what’s in this is reassuring, such as its explicit prohibition of harassment, sexual harassment, violence, and retaliation for reporting such things. It also has just many standard employment details, about things such as breaks and paid family leave.
The fact that at least one Love is Blind cast member received this and signed it is particularly interesting, considering that the cast contract says cast members are not employees.
Love is Blind’s aftercare therapy offer
Earlier this year, responding to claims made by season-two cast members Nick Thompson and Danielle Ruhl, Chris Coelen told Variety, “We’ve consistently offered to reimburse the costs of Ms. Ruhl’s post-filming therapy. And although she hasn’t taken us up on this yet, she should know that we support her, and our offer still stands.”
Among the documents in Tran Dang’s lawsuit is an e-mail message from Kinetic’s talent relations manager, who wrote to her:
What we offer for after care, in the form of therapy, is 8 sessions up to $150 per session. You will need to find a therapist on your own, as we cannot tell you who to go to. This way it is a neutral party that is not affiliated with the company, the show, etc. Once you find someone you like, please send me their contact information. Production will reach out to them directly to set up billing, so you don’t have to worry about paying for it. SMA, the psychologist group that works with Kinetic, has said that Psychology Today is a good place to find therapists in your area. Better Health and Headway are also websites you can use to help find someone. You can go in person or keep the sessions remote. Whatever works best for you 🙂
Allowing cast to choose their own therapist and not have to seek reimbursement is terrific, though I wonder if only eight sessions is sufficient to process the experience, never mind what happens when it begins airing and cast members become celebrities.
Love is Blind’s cast contract
Love is Blind’s participant agreement, which you can read in full below, is 30 pages long, including a one-page Emergency Medical Release.
There are several other copies of it as part of the lawsuit, but all of those are heavily redacted—as in, nearly all the text has been removed. That’s worth asking: What did someone not want the public to know?
In many ways, it’s very similar to reality TV contracts, with lots of legalese, including clauses requiring mediation and arbitration instead of a jury trial, and ones about being filmed 24/7, who owns the footage, and that sort of thing.
Some aspects of the Love is Blind agreement that seemed particularly noteworthy to me include the contestants’ pay and hours:
- At most, Love is Blind participants receive $8,000 for up to eight weeks of work. But they may actually receive much less: pay is determined based upon how many weeks they’re involved, and it’s $1,000 per week.
- Participants cannot disclose how much they’re paid.
- Cast members are required to participate in product placement and will receive nothing for that.
- The contract says cast “may be required to participate in production-related activities” for six or seven days a week, 12 hours a day, for a max of 60 hours a week.
- Assuming those 60 hours a week, at $1,000 a week, the cast is paid about $16.67 an hour.
It says these things about marriage and divorce:
- Relationship decisions are left up to the cast. How thoughtful!
- Participants don’t have to get married, but must show up for their weddings and are cut off from their fiancé beforehand.
- Participants cannot divorce until their last episode airs or 11 months pass after their wedding, “whichever is later.”
- Producers pay for divorce filings and mediation, up to $5,000 per couple.
Also of note:
- Cast members are not allowed to make “derogatory comments or statements” about the other cast members, any producers, Netflix—or even any of Netflix’s shows.
- Cast is required to deactivate their social media for 90 days prior to their first episode until their last episode.
- The cast cannot do any other reality TV, game show, talk show, in front of or behind the camera, for one year after the show finishes airing.
- “If I propose and/or accept a proposal, I agree to appear and show up at the altar at my wedding.”
Here is the full Participant Release and Agreement. Redactions are original to the version filed with the court, though I have also redacted the signature.
As you can see, it’s not the best scan, but is still legible in most places, and I’ve highlighted parts that I found particularly newsworthy: