Class-action targets Fremantle

Ex-employees say conditions on producer's shows violate Calif. labor laws

Three former employees filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday against "American Idol" producer FremantleMedia North America.

The suit alleges that the company systematically overworked employees without paying the required overtime, falsified time cards and denied staffers meals and rest periods.

"There's no Hollywood glamour for the below-the-line people who work on 'American Idol' and other reality shows who are grossly underpaid, worked 24/7 and receive no rest or meal breaks and no health coverage — contrary to California labor laws," plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Biddle said.

The complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court resembles a previous class-action suit against reality companies and broadcasters that recently settled for $4 million. The earlier suit was launched in conjunction with the WGA, which has been going after reality production companies and networks in an attempt to organize reality story-shapers.

"For each reality television series subject to this suit, defendants hired plaintiffs based on a flat weekly or daily pay rate," the new suit reads. "Plaintiffs were required to falsify their time cards … worked in excess of 40 hours per week during virtually every week of their employment, but they never received any premium overtime play … (and) plaintiffs were routinely denied appropriate meal and rest periods as required."

The trio of employees launching the suit worked in various production positions on such shows as "Idol," the syndicated game show "Temptation," Oxygen's "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" and Fox's upcoming "Osbournes: Reloaded." Several production companies, apparently satellite FremantleMedia entities, also are named: Blue Orbit Prods., Little Pond Television, Kickoff Prods. and American Idol Prods.

Fremantle did not return a request for comment. (partialdiff)