Actor Sues Netflix Over COVID-19 Work Conditions

Labor News, Industry News

Reprinted from The Hollywood Reporter by Eriq Gardner on February 3, 2021.

During the early days of the pandemic, the prospect of workers suing businesses for not protecting them from the virus was so great that many corporations lobbied for tort protection, aiming to be shielded from negligence claims. And yet, there have been few actual lawsuits from the nation’s labor force. Certainly none in Hollywood.

That is, until January 15, when Timothy Hearl became the first actor to sue entertainment employers over COVID-19 working conditions. Unexpectedly, Netflix is one of the defendants in this suit after having made an under-the-radar jump into live entertainment last year with Stranger Things: The Drive Into Experience.

That drive-in show allows fans of the Netflix series to navigate their vehicles through a parking lot styled as the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in 1985, where performers re-create scenes from the show’s third season. Netflix co-produces along with Secret Cinema and Empyrean Production Services. The show, located in downtown Los Angeles and designed for the COVID-19 era, opened in October and runs through at least March. …

Hearl says he and other actors complained about feeling sick from possible carbon monoxide poisoning due to car exhaust. He adds that some actors had difficulty breathing. OSHA representatives are said to have performed a site inspection of the Stranger Things set. Eventually, Hearl says, his employment was terminated. He now claims his firing runs afoul of California’s Whistleblower Retaliation statutes, which protects employees from retaliation after reporting legal violations to authorities. …

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About Jeffrey Burman 861 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at