The cadre of reality stars and crew alleging they’ve experienced or witnessed “grotesque and depraved” mistreatment on NBCUniversal’s reality television series is demanding to be released from nondisclosure agreements.
After earlier this month warning the company that a “day of reckoning” was coming for its reality TV empire, now attorneys for the still unnamed cast and crew from series on Bravo, E! and CNBC say their ongoing investigation into allegations has already uncovered serious issues but that the extent of the claims won’t be clear until the company releases people from their NDAs.
“We are left with the inescapable conclusion that NBC and its production partners are grappling with systemic rot for which sunlight is the first necessary remedial measure,” writes attorney Bryan Freedman in a letter to NBCU’s general counsel dated Aug. 20. “To date, that has been impossible owing to the draconian terms of NBC’s contracts with its cast and crew, which contain onerous confidentiality provisions coupled with ruinous penalties for breach. To ensure silence, NBC has been wielding these contractual terms like a sword.”
The cast and crew, which is also represented by Mark Geragos, have claimed they were fueled with alcohol while being deprived of food and sleep, denied mental health treatment, trapped in their series even under “dire circumstances,” and that acts of sexual violence have been covered up. They also allege that there have been issues with child labor, racism, sexism and revenge porn.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that two castmates of Bravo series Below Deck Down Under were fired after multiple instances of sexual misconduct were caught on camera. Though it remains to be seen whether any of the parties from that series are represented by Freedman and Geragos.
In the Aug. 20 letter, Freedman reminds NBCU that it previously released certain employees from the constraints of NDAs amid the #MeToo movement.
“NBCUniversal has two choices: lead by example or be forced into compliance,” Freedman writes. “In 2019, NBC News voluntarily released its employees from the nondisclosure agreements that had prevented them from sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and discrimination. This request is no different. We trust that NBCUniversal will do the right thing.”
The letter argues that the agreements are unlawful and unenforceable because they don’t include language that’s required under California law to make clear that the agreement doesn’t prevent “discussing or disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination or any other conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful.”
It also demands that NBCU inform its unscripted partners — specifically Evolution Media, which produces series in the Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules franchises — that those bound by NDAs “are all hereby released from any contractual provisions that interfere with their ability to freely disclose unlawful conduct in the workplace.”
Even if NBCU agrees, there still could be litigation on the horizon, as the letter says they believe enforcement of these provisions “has already given rise to civil liability.”
NBCUniversal has not yet responded to a request for comment.