the team behind Love Is Blind is being sued by a former contestant.
Season 2 hopeful Jeremy Hartwell has filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles County Superior Court against Netflix, production company Kinetic Content and casting company Delirium TV. His lawsuit accuses the three companies of various labor abuses, including depriving the cast of the basic essentials.
“At times, Defendants left members of the Cast alone for hours at a time with no access to a phone, food, or any other type of contact with the outside world until they were required to return to working on the production,” the court document obtained by PEOPLE claims.
The lawsuit also alleges that the three companies “further 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.”
“Even at the hotel living quarters, food was restricted to the point of severe hunger,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants, having knowledge of the fact that Cast member at times would be starving, instructed the hotel staff to not provide food to any Cast member that asked them for food because of hunger, in a clear effort to ensure that the Cast would continue to be deprived of food outside of the presence of the production team.”
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Hartwell’s lawsuit claims the only drinks the companies “regularly provided to the Cast were alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, energy drinks, and mixers.” Allegedly, beverages like water were “strictly limited to the Cast during the day.”
The document also alleges that the companies “encouraged” the cast members to “consume alcohol throughout the entire day,” and that they “were 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 reads.
The Love Is Blind team was accused of doing the alleged wrongdoings “purposely,” with the lawsuit additionally claiming that this was done to “maintain a heightened degree of control and direct the conduct of the Cast into making manipulated decisions for the benefit of the shows’ entertainment value. “
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Representatives for Netflix and Kinetic Content have not immediately returned PEOPLE’s request for comment, and PEOPLE was unable to reach Delirium TV for comment.
However, Hartwell’s attorney addressed the matter in a statement shared with PEOPLE.
“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. This made cast members hungry for social connections and altered their emotions and decision -making,” said Chantal Payton of Payton Employment Law, PC, of Los Angeles. “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.'”
Payton continued: “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.”
Hartwell also spoke out in a statement to PEOPLE: “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.”
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Hartwell was featured in Love Is Blind‘s second season, which premiered earlier this year. He has worked in the mortgage industry and hails from Chicago.
Earlier this year, Hartwell said on Instagram he saw the show “as a chance to challenge myself and explore an opportunity that was unfamiliar, uncomfortable even, while changing my approach to dating when traditional methods had failed.”
The popular reality series has become a hit for Netflix following its 2020 premiere. It’s also spawned multiple successful couples: Lauren Speed-Hamilton and Cameron Hamilton, Amber Pike and Matt Barnett, Iyanna McNeely and Jarrette Jones as well as Danielle Ruhl and Nick Thompson.
The first two seasons of Love Is Blind are now available on Netflix.