Agreement ends class-action suit of $4 million

Networks and production companies have settled two class-action suit alleging overtime violations for reality TV employees for more than $4 million.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has given preliminary approval to a $2.57 million settlement with Fox Broadcasting and Rocket Science Laboratories and a $1.54 million settlement with ABC, CBS Broadcasting and half a dozen other defendants.

Attorneys for the employees said several hundred class members received notice of the settlements and of their right to file claims for payment.

The actions, filed in 2005, alleged that the nets and production companies violated wage and hour laws by underpaying story department employees on programs such as “Trading Spouses,” “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “Renovate My Family.”

The Writers Guild of America West supported the actions as part of its ongoing efforts to organize production staffers in the reality sector. At a news conference in August 2005, plaintiffs often used terms like “sweatshop” and alleged that they were required to falsify time cards — either by signing blank cards or entering pre-determined times — when they worked “far in excess” of a 40-hour week without overtime pay.

Suits also alleged failure to provide meal periods, itemized wage statements and accurate payroll records.

At the time of the filing, the WGA minimum weekly rate for a writer on a 13-week primetime series was $3,477. One of the pay stubs filed with one of the suits showed a story producer receiving gross weekly pay of $1,800 for an 84-hour work week with net pay of $1,303.

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