A former cast member on the popular television show “Storage Wars” will be permitted to proceed with his wrongful termination lawsuit, in which he alleges that the show’s producers rigged the results. The man had been a regularly featured buyer on the show, which pits purchasers against each other at storage unit auctions. A judge in the case rejected television network A&E’s assertion that the suit would infringe upon freedom of speech rights.
Court documents show the man was fired from the show by bringing up activities that he thought were illegal under the Communications Act of 1934. That legislation prevents television producers from rigging contests in a bid to deceive viewers.
The man accused the network of rigging the outcome of numerous sales on the show by “salting” the storage units with extra valuable items. In addition, show producers would tell buyers which lockers to bid on, and they would even provide extra money for cast members who did not have enough to finance a specific purchase. The man was fired from the lucrative show after making the complaint. He was slated to make $25,000 per episode for 26 episodes during the show’s fourth season.
The key fact that will allow the lawsuit to proceed: The man is not attempting to regain his position on the show, but simply seeks the financial compensation due to him according to his employment contract. A&E attempted to characterize the suit as an attack on free speech, when it is really just a matter of employment law. The man’s attorneys are no longer demanding that the show halt certain practices. Instead, they are simply focusing on recovering the funds promised to their client. The man is seeking $750,000 in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount in punitive, or punishment-related, damages.
This case shows us that wrongful termination suits do not always look the same. In fact, this man may have a valid claim even though A&E did not violate any specific policy; rather, the fact that he was fired for bringing up valid concerns could be enough to warrant a payout.
www.hollywoodreporter.com, “Fired ‘Storage Wars’ star wins round in rigging lawsuit” Eriq Gardner, Sep. 03, 2013