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Worker-writers settle reality TV lawsuits

January 21, 2009 |  9:05 pm


Two high-profile class-action lawsuits alleging that networks and production companies denied overtime payments to story producers and others have been settled for more than $4 milllion.

The lawsuits, which were filed in 2005 with the backing of the Writers Guild of America, West, alleged that TV production companies and networks violated California wage and hour laws by, among other things, denying overtime pay and meal breaks to more than 20 workers on such as reality shows as "The Bachelor" and "Trading Spouses." 

Under the settlements, which have been preliminarily approved by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Fox Broadcasting and Rocket Science Laboratories agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle the claims, while ABC, CBS and various other defendants agreed to pay $1.545 milion.

About 400 workers are eligible to file claims for payment, said Emma Leheny, lead counsel for the workers.

"This is a paycheck that is long overdue for employees who worked tirelessly on reality shows -- many of which are hugely successful -- only to be shut out of basic protections like overtime pay."

A spokesman for the Writers Guild of America, West, which helped workers file the lawsuits and publicized their plight as part of a campaign to organize writers in the reality genre, declined to comment, citing the conditions of settlements.

Attorney Jeffrey Richardson, who represented the production companies and networks, could not be reached for comment.

-- Richard Verrier

Photos: ABC Television ""The Bachelor") | Fox Broadcasting ("Trading Spouses")