channel seven has been ordered to pay a my kitchen rules contestant ongoing compensation of $22,000 a year for psychological injury sustained from appearing in the hit show, in what is the second reality tv compensation claim to hit the network.
piper o’neill, a former beauty queen who appeared in the show in 2019, alleged she was damaged by “vilification and bullying from producers and the network” which included storylines about an affair.
“the applicant alleged that this involved ‘over 40-hour work weeks, control over her phone, distortions of her actions and words after editing, victimisation, bullying and harassment and unfair treatment and adverse interactions with other workers, producers and staff,’ ” the personal injury commission of new south wales said in its judgment.
the commission, which resolves disputes between people injured in workplaces and insurers and employers, found that o’neill (who took her case under her married name piper green) was paid $500 a week by the network and was entitled to 95% of her pay now that she could no longer work.
however, the commission rejected her claim for the higher sum of $1,000 a week, which included $500 pay plus $500 for meals and ingredients to cook on the show, and decor.
“i was paid $500 per week for being on the show,” green told the commission. “i was given an additional $500 a week for food for myself to eat and to aid in the purchase of food that would need to be bought and to practise cooking for the show.”
the commission said it was clear “the allowance of $500 per week was an allowance for ingredients for the meals the applicant cooked as part of the program and for the decor for the dinner”.
seven’s storylines for o’neill, a married mother of two at the time, included that she had been “sleeping with the enemy”, another contestant, and that she was involved in a “sex scandal”. the storylines were followed up extensively by the tabloid press.
seven rejected the claim that green was a worker, that she was injured, and that “her employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury”.
according to the published report of the case, green v seven, the network disagreed with the rate of weekly compensation claimed and said the claim for compensation was not made within the time limits prescribed by law.
seven argued “that the events alleged by the applicant were not real events or did not actually occur and that the applicant did not suffer a psychological injury or that she had misperceived events”.
when mediation failed the commission ordered seven to pay green $425 a week ongoing from 26 march 2019.
seven is likely to appeal as it has a track record of rejecting findings by the australian communication and media authority and other bodies.
“we refute any claims in this case,” a seven spokesman said. “there has been no settlement or lump sum payment. as this matter is ongoing, we have no further comment.”
o’neill’s claim follows a similar case against seven in 2019, in which a former contestant on a different reality show, house rules, was portrayed as a “villain”.
in that case the nsw compensation commission ordered the network to pay the contestant, nicole prince, compensation for psychological injury suffered after she was “harassed and bullied” during the filming of the hit renovation program.
the commission found that prince was legally an employee of seven when she appeared on the reality show in 2017.
these cases could have wide-ranging implications for makers of australian reality tv programs, many of which rely on portraying the contestants in a harsh light for drama.
“all the networks will be watching this case with some alarm,” tv tonight editor david knox said.
“recent rulings have determined contestant allowances as equating to employee status, which shifts the duty of care from a tv competition to a workplace environment. they could trigger all kinds of similar complaints by former reality contestants.
“complaints around editing and portrayal are hardly new in the genre and while it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know where genuine grievances differ from someone looking to extend their 15 minutes of fame, in this case the commission found cause.”