Dueling ‘Modern Family’ cast members and producer 20th Century Fox Television reached a truce last week over a dispute arising under California labor law. The dispute in question threatened to derail production for the show’s fourth season, which was to begin with a July 24, 2012 table read. The table read was cancelled, and on that same day, the ‘Modern Family’ cast members filed suit against Fox.
The Complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofia Vergara alleged that Fox violated California contract law by attempting to enforce the cast members’ contracts beyond seven years. Actor Ed O’Neill joined the lawsuit later in the week when an Amended Complaint was filed.
Under California law, personal service contracts are void after seven years. The contracts at the center of the dispute violated this seven-year rule and precluded the actors from working on other productions for the duration of the contract term. The Complaint alleged that the success of ‘Modern Family’ “has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts.” The lawsuit sought to have the contracts at issue declared null and void so that the actors could engage in renegotiations.
For the past two years, ‘Modern Family’ has received Emmy Awards for outstanding Comedy Series, and the show recently made sitcom-history, receiving 14 Emmy Award nominations. Several of the actors involved in the dispute have won Emmy Awards for their roles on the sitcom as well. Last year alone, ‘Modern Family’ brought $164 million in advertising revenue into the studio and ABC.
As of July 30, 2012, Fox had agreed to enter into new agreements with Vergara, Burrell, Bowen, Ferguson, and Stonestreet. In turn, the actors agreed to drop the lawsuit. Although the details of the renegotiated contracts were not immediately available, one source has reported that the sitcom stars will now be earning up to $175,000.00 per episode, along with bonuses and a percentage of profits. Each of the actors involved in the dispute, with the exception of O’Neill, were reportedly earning $65,000.00 per episode for season three. O’Neill reportedly earned more than $100,000.00 per episode for the same season.
The case is Sofia Vergara et al. v. Twentieth Century Fox International Television Inc. et al., case number BC488786, Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County