ABC-TV show actors question legality of employment contract

A popular television comedy show that airs on ABC is being sued by its cast of character actors. Beloved by many in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area, the show “Modern Family” just wrapped its third season and was recently nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, more than any other on television.

According to the suit filed jointly by all six of the adult main characters, the 20th Century Fox contract dispute is over the length of time the actors are tied to their employment contract with the studio. The contract details required personal appearances, unpaid publicity obligations and the percent raise each actor is allowed per year.

According to the law in their state, personal service contracts are prohibited from extending more than seven years. According to the lawsuit, the actors’ contracts were established for seven years and four months. Therefore, the actors have asked a judge to declare the contracts null and void. They claim the success of the show is built on illegal premises. In addition, the maximum pay increases noted in the contract are a mere 4 or 5 percent per year.

Celebrity analysts believe that the suit and the cast’s behavior is similar to the cast of “Friends” when they banded together and threatened to leave the show if they did not get the amount of money they demanded per episode of the incredibly popular NBC show. Executives at the time bragged about how profitably the show was, and the actors wanted in on the action. When they began shooting the “Friends” were making $40,000 per episode. By the time the show wrapped, they were making $1 million per episode.

Source:, “Cast of ‘Modern Family’ sues over contract,” Anthony McCartney, July 24, 2012