LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California appeals court refused to disqualify the attorneys and proposed class representatives of two class actions accusing reality television production companies and television networks of forcing employees to work long hours without breaks or overtime pay.
The defendant entertainment companies claimed the Writers Guild of America “conceived, developed and implemented” the two lawsuits.
The guild had taken the view that reality shows were profitable, in part because the production companies overworked their employees in violation of federal wage and labor laws.
The guild held meetings between January and June 2005, recruiting an “organizing committee” of disgruntled reality workers who participated in and helped mobilize the litigation.
Attorneys Anthony Segall and Emma Leheny of Rothner, Segall & Greenstone agreed to represent the 21 plaintiffs – 16 of whom attended the organizing committee meetings.
The defendants moved to disqualify the firm for its conflict of interest, since it had represented the guild for many years and was billing the guild for all litigation expenses related to the class actions.
They also moved to dismiss the plaintiffs, which had allegedly been “hand-picked” by the guild.
But the justices remained unconvinced by the conflict-of-interest argument, since the plaintiffs signed conflict-waiver forms acknowledging that the guild was picking up the legal tab.
“The written waivers demonstrated that the guild and plaintiffs understood and acknowledged the presence of all purported conflicts of interest and the material risks of continued representation by the Rothner firm,” Justice Aldrich wrote. “Plaintiffs and the guild made rational choices armed with full disclosures and provided informed written consent to the simultaneous representation by the Rothner firm.”