A crew member sued Universal Television on Friday, alleging that he was fired from an HBO Max show after coming down with COVID-19.
William Pavlu was working as a chief rigging technician on an untitled comedy starring Jean Smart. In the suit, he says he felt ill on the morning of Dec. 4, and later tested positive.
He took a leave from work, and says he was assured he would not be fired. But his condition worsened over the next week, and he was admitted to the hospital. On Dec. 14, he says he was informed that he would not be coming back when the show returned from its holiday break.
“I was in the hospital, and they fired me when I was in the hospital,” Pavlu told Variety in an interview.
The lawsuit includes a text message Pavlu sent to the unit production manager from the hospital: “So last week when I spoke with you, you assured me I wasn’t being fired for getting Covid. Today I’m in the hospital. My lungs are filled up. 2 of my guys have went to the hospital this last week. We are all out on Covid. Today I get a text saying we are all let go from the gaffer. So I Have to tell my whole crew that this is our for Covid (sic), and right before Christmas we’re all fired because of this virus. This is probably the most messed up thing any production has done to me. Or I’ve heard of. Words don’t describe how I feel about you guys right now.”
The show, formerly called “Hacks,” was shooting on the Paramount lot at the time. Universal TV did not respond to a request for comment.
Pavlu is suing for disability discrimination and wrongful termination. He also states that he left behind about $10,000 worth of tools, which he was not allowed to retrieve. According to the complaint, the tools were stolen and he was never reimbursed for them.
He was also working on “Mythic Quest,” the Apple TV Plus show that suffered the worst outbreak of any show in Los Angeles, with 26 crew members testing positive.
Pavlu is not suing Lionsgate, the producer of “Mythic Quest,” and says he was not fired from that show. “Mythic Quest” was shooting at CBS Radford, where three other outbreaks also occurred around the same time.
Pavlu said he was never provided any follow-up about an outbreak investigation on either show.
“They won’t tell you the people on your crew that got sick,” he said. “They won’t tell you nothing.”