Another Love Is Blind Season 2 cast member has come forward to discuss his experience on the reality show, after Jeremy Hartwell filed a class action lawsuit against Netflix and the producers for labor violations.
In an exclusive interview with Primetimer, contestant Haseeb Hussain says he had a very different experience than Hartwell, who alleges contestants were forced to film while they were drunk, starved, sleep-deprived, and underpaid.
"I never felt forced to consume alcohol," said Hussain. "I never had a sip of alcohol on set. I don't drink. So that wasn't my experience. I've never felt like there was a shortage of food or water."
He added, "I never felt thirsty there. There were people who were hard at work making sure that when I was thirsty, and I said I wanted water, I got that water. There was no one telling me I couldn't sleep at a certain time. I could always just doze off. No one was telling me I need to wake up right now. We were pretty much free to do what we wanted. You know, alcohol was there. I never touched it. No one shoved it down my throat. Maybe some people had different experiences. It just wasn't my experience."
Hartwell's lawsuit claims the only drinks made regularly available to the cast were alcoholic beverages, energy drinks, soft drinks, and mixers, with a very limited supply of water. He also alleges producers would sometimes withhold hotel room keys so that the contestants couldn't get sleep, and they instructed hotel staff not to provide the cast with food.
"Mr. Hartwell's involvement in Season 2 of Love is Blind lasted less than one week," producer Kinetic Content said in a statement. "Unfortunately, for Mr. Hartwell, his journey ended early after he failed to develop a significant connection with any other participant. While we will not speculate as to his motives for filing the lawsuit, there is absolutely no merit to Mr. Hartwell's allegations, and we will vigorously defend against his claims."
Hussain, who is a lawyer, explained that from a legal standpoint the Love Is Blind suit is essentially a case about whether reality TV stars are employees or independent contract workers. When it comes to pay, receiving a $1,000/week stipend — the amount provided by the show — is completely legal if members of the cast are considered contract workers. However, Hussain noted that the laws in California are somewhat unclear about what makes someone an employee versus an independent contractor.
Hussain believes Hartwell's lawsuit includes allegations of food, sleep, and water deprivation so lawyers can argue that the Love Is Blind cast members are employees. If the show can control when cast members eat and drink, when they need to be on set, etc., then they can more easily be classified as employees, he explained.
And although Hartwell's case is a class action lawsuit, other cast members do not need to testify or corroborate the allegations, unless they're called as witnesses or subpoenaed.
"All you need is one plaintiff to file a class action," said Hussain. "But then you also are asking the court for permission to represent everybody else who was in this, who's in a similar position as Jeremy Hartwell, which would be the rest of the cast. Just because it's filed that doesn't mean the court will certify us. You're basically asking the court to do that."
"And what that would do is if the court finds later on that we were employees, whoever wants to opt into the class will be able to do so. Or everyone could just get paid just by being a member of the class if, in fact, the court finds that we were employees and not independent contractors and thus owed overtime and at least California minimum wage."
The lawsuit comes several months after Love Is Blind Season 2 aired on Netflix, and Hussain can't help but wonder about the "interesting" timing of the allegations.
"I think there's some people from the show that thought that they were going to get a lot more airtime than they actually did," Hussain told Primetimer. "And I think some people are still shocked at the fact that they were just edited out completely without getting much screen time at all, or even just getting a line in that they didn't want."
"So I think I think it comes from a place of — I don't know, maybe saltiness, maybe disappointment, maybe embarrassment," he continued. "But you've got to be a certain type of individual to even agree to be on a reality TV show. You've got to know what comes with that territory."
During their time on Love Is Blind, neither Hussain nor Hartwell matched with anyone, so viewers only saw them in the pods, and not in the real-world portion of the season.
Primetimer has reached out to Netflix for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
Love Is Blind is currently streaming on Netflix.
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Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.