Workers claim harsh realities


Dozens of reality TV employees gathered Tuesday in Van Nuys, Calif., to publicly file 21 claims with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, claiming that producers of some of the top shows owe them unpaid overtime totaling more than $500,000.

The majority of the claims filed targeted "American Idol" producer FremantleMedia, claiming that writers, production assistants, contestant coordinators, craft services and office workers worked long hours without being paid overtime or allowed to take breaks.

A FremantleMedia spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Former "Idol" production coordinator Justin Buckles said he was well aware that he would be working long hours for the show but was not prepared for the "level of exploitation that exists in reality TV."

The DLSE will determine at separate meetings between each of the claimants and the companies whether official hearings will take place.

According to a study released by the WGA West titled "Harsh Reality," 88% of reality writers worked more than 40 hours per week. Of those, 91% were not paid overtime. "Harsh Reality" also found that 73% of those participating in the study worked through their meal break at least once a week, and most of the workers polled did not receive any health care or pension benefits.