The five supporting players on the CBS sitcom sued Paramount Network Television for breach of contract on Tuesday, accusing the studio of failing to make good on a promised pay hike.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Terry Farrell, Shawnee Smith, Hattie Winston, Alex Desert and Saverio Guerra (show star Ted Danson is not a party to the action), comes nearly a month after the five actors staged a one-day sickout to try and force Paramount to take care of them. The studio balked, and the actors returned to work after being threatened with a lawsuit.
However, Paramount confirms the five did not show up at the studio for shooting on Wednesday.
The quintet says that at the beginning of the third season in August 2000, Paramount made an oral promise, followed by a letter, to hold salary talks once the show hit its fourth season, which began shooting this month.
"Paramount lulled the plaintiffs into acquiescence by expressly promising to renegotiate their compensation starting with the series' fourth season, but has since repeatedly reneged on this agreement in bad faith," reads the suit.
While cast members say they weren't promised outright pay bumps, the studio was obligated to enter into talks in good faith, which in the end it failed to do.
Call it a missed diagnosis.
Paramount traditionally waits until a show is sold into syndication before starting salary negotiations. But Becker's syndication sale has twice been postponed. And with the nationwide economic downturn hurting advertising revenue, producers and networks have been penny pinching.
However, the five actors say their pay raise was never contingent upon "the sale of Becker into syndication or any other condition or factor.
"Despite [the actors'] tremendous contribution to a first-class show, Paramount's Television Group has treated these cast members as second-class citizens," the suit reads.
The actors can't be too pleased about how some of their peers are being treated. The supporting players on Paramount's Frasier just got a big pay boost from the studio, and while Becker isn't quite the Nielsen powerhouse Frasier is, it is a solid top 20 performer. The Becker bunch is also upset that Paramount failed to stick to a TV industry-wide tradition that typically rewards actors on a successful show by the third or fourth season.
Reps for Paramount Television Group refused to comment on the Becker squabble, citing the pending litigation.
The actors' lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a court order requiring Paramount to enter into negotiations for a salary boost that would be retroactive to the beginning of the fourth season.