The cadre of reality stars and crew who claim they have experienced or seen “grotesque and depraved” assault on NBCUniversal’s reality television series are demanding they be released from nondisclosure agreements.
After warning the company earlier this month that there would be a “judgment day” for its reality TV empire, now lawyers for the as-yet unnamed cast and crew of series on Bravo, E! and CNBC say their ongoing investigation into allegations has already revealed serious issues, but the scope 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 an Aug. 20 letter to NBCU’s general counsel. that was impossible due to the draconian terms of NBC’s contracts with its cast and crew, which contained heavy confidentiality provisions coupled with catastrophic penalties for violation. To ensure silence, NBC wields these contractual terms like a sword.”
The cast and crew, who is also represented by Mark Geragos, have alleged that they were fueled by alcohol while deprived of food and sleep, denied mental health treatment, trapped on their series even under “appalling conditions”, and that acts of sexual violence are covered up. They also claim that there have been problems with child labour, racism, sexism and revenge porn.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that two Bravo series castmates Below Deck Down Under were fired after multiple instances of sexual misconduct were caught on camera. Although it remains to be seen whether any of the parties from that series will be represented by Freedman and Geragos.
In the Aug. 20 letter, Freedman reminds NBCU that it has previously exempted certain employees from the restrictions 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 non-disclosure agreements that 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 illegal and unenforceable because they do not contain language required by California law to make it clear that the agreement does not prevent “discussing or disclosing information about illegal acts in the workplace , such as harassment or discrimination or any other conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful.”
It also requires NBCU to inform its unscripted partners – most notably 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 impede their ability to freely disclose unlawful conduct in the workplace.”
Even if NBCU agrees, lawsuits could still be 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.