Netflix Reality Show Deprived Cast of "Food, Water, & Sleep," Lawsuit Claims
Love Is Blind star Jeremy Hartwell alleges "inhumane working conditions" on the dating show.
The Netflix reality show Love Is Blind is all about people trying to find love while isolated from each other, but a new lawsuits claims that the restrictions placed on contestants went much further than that. As reported by People, Season 2 contestant Jeremy Hartwell has filed a lawsuit against Netflix, the show's production company Kinetic Content, and the casting company Delirium TV.
In court documents, Hartwell claims that the show's cast members were denied food, water, and sleep, while being encouraged to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. The lawsuit alleges that these actions "contributed to inhumane working conditions and altered mental state for the Cast." Best Life has reached out to Netflix for comment but has not yet received a response, and Delirium TV could not be reached. Kinetic Content offered the following statement: "Mr. Hartwell's involvement in Season 2 of Love is Blind lasted less than one week. Unfortunately, for Mr. Hartwell, his journey ended early after he failed to develop a significant connection with any other participant. While we will not speculate as to his motives for filing the lawsuit, there is absolutely no merit to Mr. Hartwell's allegations, and we will vigorously defend against his claims."
Read on to find out more details about the lawsuit and what Hartwell says happened on the set of the buzzy dating show.
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Love Is Blind is a big hit for Netflix.
Love Is Blind, which premiered in March 2020, involves a group of men and a group of women meeting while in "pods" in which they can communicate with one another, but cannot see each other. If a couple makes a connection, they can get engaged while still in the pods at which point they get to meet in-person.
From this point, the show documents the newly engaged couples as they try to make their relationships work in the real world and prepare to get married. The second season of the show, on which Hartwell was a participant, premiered in February 2022. Hartwell did not become engaged on the show, which means he participated in the first portion, in which he and the other contestants lived together while having dates in their pods.
Hartwell claims food, water, and sleep were withheld.
Court documents obtained by People claim that the defendants "controlled the Cast by restricting food and drink at all hours of the day" and "regularly refused timely food and water to the Cast while on set severely restricting the availability of hydration opportunities." The lawsuit alleges that "food was restricted to the point of severe hunger" and that staff at the hotel where the contestants were staying were instructed not to give food to contestants.
Meanwhile, drinking alcohol was allegedly "encouraged."
The lawsuit claims that the only drinks "regularly provided to the Cast were alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, energy drinks, and mixers." The cast was allegedly "plied with an unlimited amount of alcohol without meaningful or regular access to appropriate food and water to moderate their inevitable drunkenness."
"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 claims.
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Cast members faced a hefty fine if they left early.
Hartwell's attorney, Chantal Payton, released a statement to People, claiming that in addition to the allegations about food, water, and sleep deprivation, the participants were not properly compensated and were living under the threat of owing the show money if they left early, despite the conditions.
"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," Payton said. "This made cast members hungry for social connections and altered their emotions and decision-making. 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."
According to Entertainment Tonight, the lawsuit is a "proposed class action" lawsuit, meaning that others who signed similar contracts to his within four years of the filing could join.
Hartwell says the conditions made him feel like "a zombie."
In a statement to People, Hartwell said, "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. 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."
As reported by Entertainment Tonight, Hartwell is requesting a jury trial and seeks "unpaid overtime compensation, unpaid minimum wages, waiting time penalties, statutory penalties, restitution, declaratory and injunctive relief, attorneys' fees and costs, prejudgment interest, and other appropriate relief."