Jeremy Hartwell, who appeared on Season 2 of Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” reality series, has filed a lawsuit against the streamer and production companies for alleged “unsafe and inhumane” working conditions.
Hartwell alleges contestants were “plied with an unlimited amount of alcohol” and not given access to food or water, which guards against heavy intoxication. He also claims that he and the other cast members were underpaid and not given adequate rest periods between filming sessions.
“They intentionally underpaid the cast members, deprived them of food, water and sleep, plied them with booze and cut off their access to personal contacts and most of the outside world. This made cast members hungry for social connections and altered their emotions and decision-making,” said Hartwell’s attorney, Chantal Payton of Payton Employment Law, PC, in Los Angeles.
She added that producers made it difficult if not impossible to leave the series early: “The contracts required contestants to agree that if they left the show before filming was done, they would be penalized by being required to pay $50,000 in ‘liquidated damages.’ With that being 50 times what some of the cast members would earn during the entire time that they worked, this certainly had the potential to instill fear in the cast and enable production to exert even further control.”
Hartwell’s other attorney, Laurel N. Holmes, managing partner at Payton Employment Law, said her client took days to recover from the effects of sleep deprivation and dehydration. “It was like an out-of-body experience for him, and he realized that he was open to emotional manipulation, she said in a statement. “He left the show feeling like a zombie, and he was told he looked that way too once he got back to Chicago.”
According to the court documents, which TheWrap has obtained, Hartwell expects fellow contestants to join him in “a proposed class action” against Netflix, Kinetic Content, LLC and Delirium TV, LLC, who are all named in the lawsuit.
Hartwell says that producers “maintained excessive control over virtually every aspect of the lives of their shows’ cast, including exerting complete domination over their time, schedule, and their ability to eat, drink, and sleep, and communicate with the outside world during the period of employment,” and so “created and maintained unsafe and inhumane working conditions for the cast of the shows.”
Hartwell, who did not get engaged on the series and thus was not featured this season, also alleged that he and the other reality contestants were only allowed “to rest at their hotel living quarters for a few hours in between late nights on set and early morning call times.”
The legal documents also state that the Defendants “instructed the hotel staff to not provide food to any cast member that asked them for food because of hunger, in a clear effort to ensure that the cast would continue to be deprived of food outside of the presence of the production team.”
In the Season 2 finale, a drunken argument broke up one of the most promising matches on the show. Shayne and Natalie seemed the most likely duo to say “I do,” until the night of his bachelor party, when he said he “hated” her and that meeting her was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
In keeping with the show’s format, both potential bride and groom had to say “yes” or “no,” at the altar in front of their friends and family and either go through with the wedding or split up on the spot. Only two of the engaged couples got married in Season 2.
Netflix and Kinetic did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.