When we tune in for a reality TV show, we don’t usually think of it as a workplace environment. But for those both in front of and behind the cameras, that’s exactly what it is – they are employees, and their employers have a duty of care toward them.
This was made clear this week when the NSW Compensation Commission received a claim for medical expenses from a contestant on the show House Rules.
Bad casting leads to PTSD
House Rules is familiar to a lot of Australians – a Seven Network reality show in which couples renovate each others homes to compete for a prize. Nicole Prince was a contestant on House Rules in 2017, and she felt manipulated by the show’s producers. According to Ms Prince, she was encouraged to play the role of the “mean girl,” a hostile presence designed by the producers to create friction between the contestants. The end result was a massive and negative social media response toward Ms Prince and her show partner – in addition to an acrimonious set presence and bullying from other contestants. In the fallout, she found herself seriously anxious, depressed and dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The claim and landmark finding
Initially, Seven Network’s insurers insisted they weren’t liable for Ms Prince’s claim, as she wasn’t an actual employee of the network. This is when the NSW Compensation Commission came in. While Seven Network insisted she was a “contestant” and not a worker, the Committee sided with Ms Prince. The network had sold advertising during the show and as a result directly benefited from her role in the contest the time she put into the home renovation projects. Additionally, Ms Prince’s tenure on the show met all the hallmarks of employment: Seven Network controlled when she worked, how she worked, and required her to work for the network exclusively while on the show.
The Committee also found the network inherently negligent in their handling of hostile social media comments. Not to mention the fact that House Rules appeared to be edited and constructed in such a way to increase that hostility.
Seven Network was required to compensate Ms Prince for her medical treatment, although the final amount has not yet been detailed.
Know your workers compensation rights
Not all workplaces are what you expect, as the House Rules case makes clear. Additionally, not all workplace injuries are physical. The mental and emotional toll of bullying or an adversarial environment can lead to anxiety, depression and PTSD, like they did for Ms Prince on the set of House Rules.
If you feel a hostile workplace environment has resulted in medical costs or loss of earnings, reach out to workers compensation experts today. Gerard Malouf and Partners is here to help.