Channel Seven has been ordered to pay a My Kitchen Rules contestant $22,000 per year in ongoing compensation for psychological injury sustained while appearing on the hit show, in the network’s second reality television compensation claim.
Piper O’Neill, a former beauty queen who appeared on the show in 2019, claimed she was harmed by producers and the network’s “vilification and bullying,” which included storylines about an affair.
The applicant alleged that this included ‘over 40-hour work weeks, control over her phone, distortions of her actions and words following editing, victimisation, bullying and harassment, and unfair treatment and adverse interactions with other workers, producers, and staff,’ according to the judgement of the New South Wales personal injury commision.
The commision, which resolves disputes between workers injured on the job and their insurers and employers, determined that O’Neill (who filed her case under her married name Piper Green) was paid $500 per week by the network and was entitled to 95% of her pay once she was unable to work.
The commision, however, denied her request for the higher weekly wage of $1,000, which included $500 in pay plus $500 for meals and ingredients to cook on the show, as well as decor.
Green testified before the commision, “I was paid $500 per week to appear on the show.”
“I was given an additional $500 per week to spend on food for myself and to assist in the purchase of food that would need to be purchased for the show, as well as to practise cooking for the show.”
The commision stated unequivocally that “the allowance of $500 per week was for ingredients for the meals the applicant prepared as part of the programme and for dinner decor.”
Seven’s storylines for O’Neill, who was a married mother of two at the time, included allegations that she had been “sleeping with the enemy,” another contestant, and was embroiled in a “sex scandal.” The tabloid press extensively covered the storylines.
Seven denied that Green was a worker, that she was injured, and that “her employment played a significant role in the injury.”
According to the published report of the case, Green v Seven, the network objected to the weekly compensation rate claimed and claimed the claim was not made within the legal time limits.
Seven contended “that the applicant’s alleged events were not real or did not occur, and that the applicant did not suffer a psychological injury or misperceived events.”
Following the failure of mediation, the commision ordered Seven to pay Green $425 per week beginning 26 March 2019.
Seven is likely to appeal, given its track record of overturning findings by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and other regulatory bodies.
“We categorically deny any allegations made in this case,” a Seven spokesman said. “There has been no settlement or payment of a lump sum. We have no further comment on this matter because it is still pending.”
O’Neill’s claim follows a similar one brought against Seven in 2019, in which a former contestant on a different reality show, House Rules, was depicted as a “villain.”
In that case, the NSW Compensation Commission ordered the network to compensate contestant Nicole Prince for psychological injury sustained during the filming of the popular renovation show.
When Prince appeared on the reality show in 2017, the commision determined that she was legally an employee of Seven.
These cases could have far-reaching consequences for producers of Australian reality television shows, many of which rely on portraying contestants in a negative light for dramatic effect.
“All of the networks will be closely monitoring this case,” TV Tonight editor David Knox said.
“Recent court rulings have determined that contestant allowances are equivalent to employee status, effectively transferring the duty of care from a television competition to a workplace environment. They may elicit a variety of similar complaints from former reality show contestants.
“Complaints about editing and portrayal are not uncommon in the genre, and while it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between genuine grievances and those seeking to extend their 15 minutes of fame, the commision found cause in this case.”
- Piper O’Neill: Channel 7