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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Reality show writers sue Fox TV
Evan Marriot
Evan Marriot was the star of 2003's Joe Millionaire, a hit for Fox TV
A group of Hollywood writers has taken legal action against Fox TV network and a reality TV show producer, accusing both parties of breaking labour laws.

The case claims the writers were told to fake time cards, denied meal breaks and worked in "sweatshop conditions".

It is part of a broader effort by the Writers Guild of America to force industry-wide standards for those who write reality TV shows.

Spokesmen for both Fox TV and producer Rocket Science declined to comment.

It follows a similar action filed in July against four other TV networks.

"The conditions in this industry resemble sweatshops," declared the case, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

'Renegade employers'

"Things have become so bad that these renegade employers aren't even complying with minimum standards," said Tony Segall, lawyer for the eight named writers.

The action claims Rocket Science Laboratories, the producer of shows including Joe Millionaire, forced writers to work for more than 40 hours a week and submit falsified time cards.

I spent almost my entire waking time at work
Zachary Isenberg, writer

The company subsequently refused to pay overtime, thereby breaking Californian labour laws, according to the action.

"I spent almost my entire waking time at work," said Zachary Isenberg, who worked on the show Renovate My Family.

Fox is named as a defendant because it oversaw the Rocket Science shows and broadcast them on the Fox network.

No comment

The writers are seeking unpaid wages, overtime premiums, interest and damages.

Mr Segall said as many as 1,000 reality writers had signed cards seeking representation by the Writers Guild.

He added that writers of so-called 'unscripted' shows were part of a relatively new genre that has not yet organised into unions, leaving employees unprotected.

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