LOS ANGELES (CN) – The stars of the hit television comedy “Modern Family” claim Fox and its affiliates violated their employment rights by tying them to contracts that are “void and illegal” under California law.
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“Modern Family” cast members Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell want the Los Angeles Superior Court to let them walk away from contracts that they say go months beyond the seven-year maximum allowed under state labor laws.
“‘Modern Family’ has been a breakout critical and financial success,” the 16-page lawsuit states. “That success, however, has been built upon a collect ion of illegal contracts: The ‘Modern Family’ cast’s employment agreements with Twentieth Century Fox Television, the production company behind the show, violate the ‘seven-year rule’ under California Labor Code section 2855(a).”
The actors and their loan-out companies are suing Twentieth Century Fox International Television Inc., doing business as Twentieth Century Fox Television, a unit of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
ABC, which has aired three seasons of “Modern Family” since the fall of 2009, is not a party to the complaint.
Vergara’s 2007 agreement includes a six-season option until 2015, while Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell committed to the “Modern Family” pilot episode, plus an additional seven seasons of episodes in early 2009, according to the lawsuit.
Vergara’s contract runs for eight years and is therefore barred by the seven-year rule, according to the complaint. The other actors will work for several months under contracts that are allegedly “illegal and void.”
Shot in the popular “mockumentary” style, “Modern Family” centers on three Los Angeles families headed by Jay Pritchett (played by Ed O’Neill), his daughter Claire (Bowen) and his son Mitchell (Ferguson).
“Modern Family” has won numerous awards, including two Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series and a Golden Globe for Best TV Musical or Comedy. ABC renewed the show for a fourth season earlier this year.
The actors are represented by Jeffery McFarland with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.