Former ‘Love is Blind’ contestant Jeremy Hartwell is now suing Netflix, alleging the company violated a litany of labor laws.
Hartwell, a Chicago mortgage company executive who appeared on the show’s second season, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in June, according to CBS News. He accused Netflix of imposing “inhumane working conditions” on set and providing actors with an abundance of alcohol while withholding food, water and adequate payment.
“It’s about justice and it’s not about money for me,” Hartwell said, by CNN.
“I am convinced that these practices are bad and that they must change. And the reason I’m making this effort with this lawsuit is that I hope it becomes a catalyst for these changes, so that future reality TV actors don’t have to go through this.
Hartwell also named the show’s staff, production company Kinetic Content and casting company Delirium TV as defendants. The lawsuit alleged that staff wrongly classified applicants as independent contractors to save money by denying them overtime and payment of minimum wage.
Hartwell said the candidates regularly work 20-hour days for seven days a week for $1,000 a week. A quick look at the math reveals that totals $7.14 an hour, less than half the $15 Los Angeles County minimum wage.
The show’s premise, meanwhile, was ingenious: 30 single men and women are placed in pods that allow them to talk to, but not see, their potential partner on the other side. Those who get engaged are sent on their honeymoon before they introduce their partner to their family – and decide whether or not to marry.
Hartwell’s attorney, Chantal Payton, however, told CNN that the staff deliberately withheld food to make “cast members crave social connections and altered their emotions and decision-making.” Hartwell said staff constantly remind contestants not to talk to each other when they go to the closed set.
He also said their wallets, ID cards, passports and mobile phones were confiscated on arrival, while they were locked in their room for 24 hours straight – with scarce and infrequent supplies of water . Hartwell added that alcohol was available for free.
“The combination of sleep deprivation, isolation, lack of food and excessive alcohol, all required, permitted or encouraged by the defendants, contributed to inhumane working conditions and impaired the mental state of the cast,” the lawsuit states.
Hartwell said he hopes his eventual class action lawsuit on behalf of his fellow participants will change those practices. But Kinetic Content told CNN in a statement on Saturday that the lawsuit was without merit.
“Mr. Hartwell’s involvement in ‘Love is Blind’ Season 2 lasted less than a week,” a rep for the production company said. “Unfortunately, for Mr. Hartwell, his journey ended early after he failed to develop a meaningful bond with another participant.”
The rep added that Kinetic Content wouldn’t want to speculate on Hartwell’s motives in filing the lawsuit, for which there was “absolutely no merit.” The production company concluded its statement by warning that it “will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”