Emmy Rossum Settles “Shameless” Contract Dispute

January 9, 2017
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Emmy Rossum, co-star of Showtime’s hit series Shameless recently set the gold standard in entertainment law for how to settle pay equality contract disputes.

Never fear a dispute

Much has been written about the pay gap between genders, with white women earning $0.78 on every $1.00 a male counterpart takes home, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported. In late 2016, Rossum, who plays Fiona Gallagher in the television show, took a stand in a contract dispute, lobbying that she be paid equivalent to her counterpart William H. Macy, who plays Fiona’s father in the series, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Macy supported the actress publicly, an instance that was seen in a similar contract dispute between Jennifer Lawrence and Sony, the organization that funded the movie “American Hustle.” Co-star Bradley Cooper supported Lawrence as well as she fought for a movie proceeds payout akin to Cooper, according to Business Insider.

The dispute led to ramifications for Warner Brothers Inc., as the company refused to renew the show for an eighth season until the dust was settled. While the two parties were renegotiating the contract, it was reported by EW that Rossum was offered the same salary as Macy, but she held out for higher pay. Rossum demanded retroactive compensation to account for all the years Macy made more, even though Rossum was still a central character in the show.

Contract sets a precedent

Ultimately, both parties announced in late December, 2016, that Rossum and Warner Brothers Inc. came to an agreement on a new salary. While this is undoubtedly a huge win for the entertainment industry as a whole when it comes to pay equality, it could be seen as a blueprint for success in terms of contract negotiations done right.

After losing her contract dispute, Lawrence penned a short article that attributed some part of her inability to achieve equal pay as a fault of the very thing she was being persecuted for; not wanting to sound whiny during the negotiations when she demands too much, solely because she is a woman.

Entertainment law can be difficult to maneuver around, especially when a contract settlement turns into arbitration and a work stoppage, such as in this case. Talent agreements can seem daunting to dispute at first, but excellent negotiation skills ultimately win out in scenarios such as these, where the plaintiff is ethically in the right.

While every actress will have varying levels of experience when it comes to contract negotiations, Rossum proved that should a woman hold steadfast to her demand, the end result will more likely than not work in her favor. For this, it’s essential to have a top-notch legal team at the table to dissuade and avoid any early concessions in the process, and those in similar situations will certainly be taking a page out of Rossum’s book to achieve their goals.