"American Idol" producer hit with lawsuit

Contestants line up to audition for the television show "American Idol" at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena August 8, 2006. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Former employees have filed a class-action lawsuit 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,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Jonathan Biddle.

The complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court strongly resembles a class-action suit against reality companies and broadcasters that recently was settled for $4 million. The earlier suit was launched in conjunction with the Writers Guild of America, which has been going after reality production companies and networks in an attempt to organize the writers who shape the story lines of reality shows.

“For each reality television series subject to this suit, defendants hired plaintiffs based on a flat weekly or daily pay rate,” the 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 ... plaintiffs were routinely denied appropriate meal and rest periods as required.”

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

Fremantle did not immediately return a request for comment.