Love Is Blind contestants were deprived of adequate amounts of food and water and plied with alcohol while filming Netflix’s hit reality TV show, a new lawsuit alleges.
In a proposed class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of all Love Is Blind participants and those on similar reality shows, season two contestant Jeremy Hartwell alleges he endured several labor abuses while filming the show, which is centered around a dating experiment in which couples can only see each other after they’ve gotten engaged.
“Being on the show left me sleep-deprived, socially isolated and mentally drained and I had what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience,” Hartwell said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “I would hear myself saying things that were contrary to what I was thinking at the time. After the production, I felt and looked like a zombie for a few days.”
Hartwell, who lives in Chicago and has worked in the mortgage industry, was not featured in the second season of the show but was filmed for a week in 2021. During that time, he alleges in the lawsuit, the 30 cast members were isolated from the outside world, deprived of water, and endured up to 20-hour work days. Ultimately, Hartwell failed to get engaged and make the final cut of the show.
“The only drinks that defendants regularly provided to the cast were alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, energy drinks and mixers. Hydrating drinks such as water were strictly limited to the cast during the day,” the lawsuit states. “The combination of sleep deprivation, isolation, lack of food, and an excess of alcohol all either required, enabled or encouraged by defendants contributed to inhumane working conditions and altered mental state for the cast.”
The lawsuit was filed last month against Netflix, production company Kinetic Content, and casting company Delirium TV. Netflix and Kinetic Content did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Delirium TV could not be reached for comment.
Premiering in 2020, the Emmy-nominated series is about to enter its third season. On the show, contestants meet their future life partners in separate pods and must get engaged before they can meet face-to-face. They then embark on a two-week journey that ends either in a televised marriage or a public breakup.
According to the lawsuit, the difficulties of the experience are magnified by the long days, isolation, and minimal paychecks since they are classified as independent contractors. During production, producers allegedly paid contestants $1,000 a week, even as they worked seven days straight.
"Love Is Blind is not the only reality show that exploits its cast members by misclassifying them as independent contractors,” Hartwell’s attorney, Chantal Payton, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Reality show production and casting companies exert a lot more control over the contestants than the law allows for a worker to truly be considered an independent contractor, especially in shows where cast members are supposedly searching for love.”
After joining the show, cast members were immediately isolated from their friends, family, and anyone outside of production—and had to “give up all forms of identification, wallets, phones, cash, and credit and debit cards” to producers to ensure they could not leave, the lawsuit says.
“To force the Casts’ cooperation with this instruction, Defendants also did not allow any of the Cast members to hold a key to their own hotel rooms to prevent them from leaving their hotel rooms,” the lawsuit states.
The producers allegedly “regularly refused timely food and water to the cast while on set,” including while they were at the hotel. The lawsuit also claims that production “instructed the hotel staff not to provide food to any Cast member that asked them for food because of hunger.”
“Defendants were encouraged to consume alcohol throughout the entire day and were plied with an unlimited amount of alcohol without meaningful or regular access to appropriate food and water to moderate their inevitable drunkenness,” the lawsuit alleges.
Contents were afraid to leave before filming was complete as they’d been told they would be required to pay $50,000 in “liquidated damages” if they tried to breach their contracts, according to the lawsuit.
“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,” Payton noted.
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