Empire is stirring up drama before its latest season even hits airwaves.
Fox has been hit with a class action lawsuit stemming from the filming of the popular series at a Chicago juvenile detention center – the setting for the first two episodes of season 2 – according to court documents obtained by Deadline.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. Northern District Court of Illinois, alleges that while filming at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in June, July and August 2015, Empire caused three separate lockdowns.
“Numerous areas that are essential to the JTDC’s mission of educating and rehabilitating the children housed there – including the JTDC’s school, its facilities for family visits, its only outdoor recreation yard, its library, and its chapel – were placed off limits so that Fox’s agents and employees could use them to stage and film the show,” the lawsuit says.
Subsequently, the suit alleges, the children at the facility were ordered to be confined to their cells for “days on end,” causing “psychological and emotional traumas.” Further, visits from families were “interrupted, cut back, or effectively eliminated.”
First airing in September 2015, Empire‘s season 2 premiere and second episode centered on Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) confinement to a prison. The suit says that the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center was used as a “realistic prison facility.”
“The children at JTDC, meanwhile, were placed under restrictions more severe than those governing many adult jails,” the suit alleges. “Putting the children housed at the JTDC on lockdown so that the Defendants could use the facility to film a profitable television show was a breach of fiduciary duty, and it violated the children’s rights under the U.S. Constitution and state law. The profits gained from this misconduct were unjustly obtained.”
The claim, filed by two, unidentified juvenile former residents on behalf of up to 400 other class members, names Twentieth Century Fox Television, Inc., Fox Broadcasting Company, Inc., Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc., Fox Entertainment Group, Inc., Fox Networks Group, Inc., and Fox Television Group, as well as Cook County and the center’s superintendent.
Both plaintiffs – who are represented by Eimer Stahl LLP of Chicago – are seeking profits Fox made from the September episodes. The suit claims that advertisers paid an “astonishing” $750,000 for a 30-second spot in the premiere episode, and $600,000 for a similar ad in the second episode.
Fox declined to comment on the suit to PEOPLE.
Empire returns to Fox on Sept. 21.