LOS ANGELES – Hollywood writers have filed a lawsuit against producers of TV reality shows, including "The Bachelor," (search) as well as several networks, accusing them of violating California's labor laws.
The suit, which is seeking certification as a class action, is designed to increase the pressure on producers to agree to an industrywide contract with those who "write" the supposedly unscripted shows.
The suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that writers, who work under a variety of titles including "story editor," have experienced "sweatshop" conditions, often working 80-hour weeks without overtime pay or breaks and meal periods required by law.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 12 writers against several production companies, including Telepictures Productions Inc., a unit of Warner Bros. which produced "The Bachelor," AND Syndicated Productions, which produced the show "Are You Hot?" (search) and Dawn Syndicated Productions Inc., which produced "The Real Gilligans Island." (search)
Also named as defendants were networks ABC, CBS, WB and Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants followed substantially identical payroll practices, including requiring writers to submit falsified time cards that did not accurately reflect the hours they worked each week.
The suit requests unpaid wages and overtime, civil penalties and punitive damages.
Representatives of CBS, the WB, Next Entertainment Inc. and Telepictures declined to comment. Calls to other defendants were not immediately returned.
"What we're responding to is conditions that outrage the conscience," said Daniel Petrie Jr., president of the Writers Guild of America, west, which assisted the plaintiffs in filing the lawsuit.
Last month, the guild sent letters to reality TV production companies demanding that they provide union wages and benefits to people who sift through hundreds of hours of footage to craft story lines.
The WGA said it has received nearly 1,000 signed cards from reality TV workers requesting representation by the union.
Petrie said the guild was prepared to assist in the filing of several more suits if producers don't agree to talks.