Published July 25, 2012
Members of the cast of "Modern Family" have come together to sue 20th Century Fox Television to void their contracts to work on the hit comedy, which they claim are illegal under California law.
Series stars Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell argue that their contracts with 20th Century Fox Television violate a California law prohibiting personal service contracts from extending for more than seven years. Actor Ed O'Neill was originally negotiating separately from the cast, but later joined the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks a judge to rule the contracts are illegal and should be voided because they prohibit the actors from other work. The lawsuit states the contracts bind the actors to work on the series from February 2009 and June 30, 2016.
"'Modern Family' has been a breakout critical and financial success," the lawsuit states. "That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, this is a tactic often used by actors who seek to void contracts during renegotiations for higher compensation.
A spokeswoman for 20th Century Fox said the studio had no immediate comment on the case.
The lawsuit also states contracts cap the raises the actors receive for each additional season of the show — Vergara's pay raise per season is capped at five percent, while the rest of her co-stars named in the suit are allowed to receive a maximum pay increase of four percent per year. Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell are also required to perform numerous unpaid publicity obligations.
The show recently concluded its third season.
"Modern Family" is a popular comedy that airs on ABC and won Emmy Awards for outstanding Comedy Series the past two years. Several of the stars, including Burrell, Bowen and Stonestreet have won individual Emmys for their work on the show.
According to the Hollywood reporter, five of the cast members are being offered salary increases for between $150,000 per episode to $325,000 per episode between now and season 9. The cast is reportedly asking for much more, including more than double the offered amount if the show goes to eight or nine seasons, which is reportedly expected.
The show is said to be a profit center for both the studio and the show's network, ABC, generating $164 million in advertising last year.
The show was recently nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, the most of any sitcom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.