Earlier this month, a letter sent by reality TV stars’ lawyers accused NBCUniversal of manipulative tactics and covering up instances of sexual violence. The legal fight was jumpstarted by Real Housewives alum Bethenny Frankel, who has called for her former colleagues to unionize amid Hollywood’s historic double strike.
The letter, obtained by Rolling Stone, claimed the network had “a pattern and practice of grotesque and depraved mistreatment” and that cast and crew members were “threatened with ruin” if they decided to speak out. The purpose of the letter was to ask NBCUniversal to hold possible evidence ahead of litigation. In the hold notice, the company was warned the “day of reckoning” had come.
Bravo shot back following the accusations, saying that their NDAs are meant to keep storylines confidential, not to muzzle individuals from reporting alleged mistreatment.
“Confidentiality clauses are standard practice in reality programming to prevent disclosure of storylines prior to air. They are not intended to prevent disclosure by cast and crew of unlawful acts in the workplace, and they have not been enforced in that manner,” a spokesperson for Bravo told Variety, which first reported the network’s response.
“To be clear,” the statement added. “Any current or former cast or crew is free to discuss and disclose any allegedly unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination, or any other conduct they have reason to believe is inappropriate. We are also working with our third party production companies to remind all cast and crew that they are encouraged to report any such concerns through the channels made available by the production company so concerns can be promptly addressed.”
Last week, Bryan Freedman, an attorney working with Frankel, wrote to NBCUniversal’s general counsel that the full extent of alleged “wrongdoing” would not be known until individuals were released from their NDAs and claimed NBCUniversal’s NDAs were unlawful, per Variety.
“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,” Freedman wrote on August 20. “To date, that has been impossible owing to the draconian terms of NBC’s contracts with its cast and crew, which contain onerous confidentiality provisions coupled with ruinous penalties for breach. To ensure silence, NBC has been wielding these contractual terms like a sword.”