An actor is suing Netflix Inc. and several other companies, alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2020 from a theater production for complaining that he and other performers were forced to work in an enclosed parking lot with little protection from carbon monoxide.
Timothy Hearl’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as additional defendants staffing company Empyrean Production Services, production company Redrock Entertainment Services LLC, online ticket seller Fever Labs Inc. and event promotion firm Secret Group U.S. Inc.
The complaint brought Friday alleges whistleblower termination and retaliation as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. Hearl seeks unspecified damages.
Representatives for the defendants could not be immediately reached.
Hearl, whose film roles include the 2012 movie, “The Cinderella Effect,” was hired by the defendants last September as part of a theater ensemble to recreate scenes from season three of the Netflix fantasy series, “Stranger Things,” the suit states.
The show was scheduled to run from about September through April of this year with performances occurring five days a week, but due to the coronavirus, the live event was adapted as a drive-in experience at an outdoor venue in downtown Los Angeles, according to the suit.
Hearl was initially hired to play a demogorgon, a monster from an alternate dimension in the fictional “Stranger Things” world, and the role required him to don a custom-fit, full-body suit, according to the complaint. Despite finishing several costume fittings and attending all rehearsals, the defendants did not provide Hearl with a costume, the suit alleges.
In response to multiple emails from Hearl complaining about the lack of contractually agreed upon work, the defendants temporarily reassigned him to play a character wearing a hazmat suit in an enclosed parking area with little ventilation, the suit states.
“The space was not designed to have actors roaming between cars for any length of time, as any openings to fresh air were covered to protect light from seeping in and audience members kept their vehicles running during the performances,” the suit states.
After several performances, the actors assigned to the area began complaining that were having difficulty breathing and were getting sick from possible carbon monoxide poisoning, the suit states.
Hearl was almost hit by a moving car during a mid-November performance, the suit alleges.
“As one of the more seasoned performers in the background ensemble, (Hearl) was unafraid to voice his health and safety concerns and advocate on behalf of his fellow performers,” the suit states. He asked whether a ventilation system would be provided and whether carbon dioxide monitors would be available, the suit states.
Hearl filed a complaint with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the suit states. But instead of improving conditions after Hearl complained, the defendants allegedly removed him and several other vocal employees and brought in replacement actors.
Hearl was later told during a Zoom meeting in November that he was being fired because he was “making women uncomfortable,” according to the suit.
“(Hearl) was appalled by this unsubstantiated attack on his character,” the suit states. “At no point during his employment had defendants or his colleagues ever indicated that he made a woman, let alone any person, feel uncomfortable in the workplace.”
Moreover, Hearl worried that such a mark on his reputation could cause him to be blacklisted from further work and also create other negative repercussions, the suit states.
To try and refute the allegation against him, Hearl revealed himself as a gay man, the suit states. The defendants then changed their reason for firing him, saying it was actually “due to client’s request,” the suit states.
Hearl has suffered depression, pain, humiliation, severe emotional distress, trauma, and sleeplessness, according to the suit.
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