Two former “Love Island USA” crew members have filed a lawsuit against show producers ITV and NBCUniversal, alleging violations of California’s employment laws and mistreatment of contestants.
The complaint, filed Wednesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, relies on the testimony of plaintiffs Jasmine Crestwell and Alex Rinks, both of whom worked as Villa producers during the fourth installment of the reality dating show — the first season after the show had moved from CBS to NBCUniversal-owned streaming service Peacock. The lawsuit alleges that, in an effort to bolster ratings, “Love Island USA” recruited producers behind the hit U.K. version of the series, whose allegedly “racist and abusive practices” negatively impacted the mental health of show contestants.
Per court documents obtained by TheWrap, Rinks was concerned by the “unsafe and unsanitary conditions” of the production and alleged that producers denied contestants sleep, food, water and sanitary bathrooms. Moreover, Crestwell alleged that producers pressured female contestants to engage in sexual relationships with male contestants despite their previously stated reservations. They also allegedly made derogatory comments about female contestants’ bodies while watching intimate footage of contestants.
When widespread concerns of producers were brought to the attention of the show’s team of executive producers, EPs scheduled a meeting they said would be a “safe space” to share concerns. Instead, after Rinks and Crestwell brought up their concerns regarding the mistreatment of contestants, they were fired two days later, according to the suit. The complaint alleges that Rinks and Crestwell’s termination violates California law that prohibits retaliation against employees that bring up legally protected complaints of discrimination.
The lawsuit also alleges that “Love Island USA” producers prevented a Black contestant — Season 4’s Sereniti Springs — from succeeding on the show by barring her from making connections with male cast members. When Crestwell brought up her concerns that Springs was being discriminated against, the suit states that executive producer Sophie Bush told Crestwell, “We are protecting her because we know none of the boys on the show like her, and we would hate to see her get rejected.”
In responses to TheWrap’s request for comment, a spokesperson for ITV America said Friday, “This is a frivolous attack at an opportunistic moment, timed to the Season 5 debut, made by two former employees who were terminated for cause, purely in relation to their job performance. These characterizations are false. ‘Love Island USA’’s commitment to diversity and proven track record speaks for itself. We categorically deny the allegations and look forward to defending against these claims in a court of law.”
NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“The employees who work on reality television sets — including cast and crew members — are protected by the same laws as employees in more traditional workplaces,” attorney and King & Siegel LLP partner Julian Burns King said in a statement obtained by TheWrap. “The many employees who work in obscurity to make these shows happen do not sign away their right to a safe workplace the moment they step onto set. We are committed to fighting for our clients’ rights and seeking justice on their behalf.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.