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A fired Netflix employee and current software engineer at the streamer have filed a labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Netflix retaliated against them for “speaking up” against Netflix’s handling of the Dave Chappelle comedy special, The Closer.
The charge, filed on Wednesday and first reported by The Verge on Friday, was submitted on behalf of B. Pagels-Minor, a former Netflix program manager who was fired for allegedly leaking company information, and Terra Field, a software engineer who had spoken out against the special on social media and was temporarily suspended after she attended an executive meeting.
According to the NLRB filing, which names Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos as the employer representative, Netflix “engaged in the above activity to quell employees from speaking up about working conditions including, but not limited to, seeking to create a safe and affirming work environment for Netflix employees, speaking up about Netflix’s products and the impact of its product choices on the LGBTQ+ community, and providing support for employees whom Netflix has treated in an unlawful and disparate manner.”
In a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix denied taking action against employees for “speaking up or walking out.”
“We recognize the hurt and pain caused to our trans colleagues over the last few weeks. But we want to make clear that Netflix has not taken any action against employees for either speaking up or walking out,” a Netflix spokesperson said.
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act states that employees have the right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Though the protections are typically referred to in cases of unionization, the NLRB has in the past ruled against employers with social media and press policies that prevented employees from speaking out against their employers on social media or speaking with the press without prior authorization.
Over the past month, Chappelle’s The Closer, which contains derogatory comments about transgender people, has led to a moment of turmoil for Netflix. After the special was released in early October, Sarandos sent out two memos to staff to affirm his support for the special, despite the concerns raised by trans Netflix staffers and allies.
Sarandos later apologized for the memos, which he described as “clumsy” in a recent interview with THR, but his initial messages were largely seen as the impetus behind a virtual walkout organized by Netflix’s trans* employee resource group and a public rally outside one of Netflix’s L.A. offices on Oct. 20 that drew in hundreds.
Before the walkout took place, tension between employees and Netflix executives heightened after Field was suspended — and later reinstated — and Pagels-Minor was fired after an Oct. 13 article published by Bloomberg reported that Netflix spent $24.1 million on The Closer, citing internal documents. Pagels-Minor has denied leaking the information and the NLRB filing alleges they were fired “based upon false and pretextual reasons.” A Netflix rep declined to comment further on the circumstances of the firing. But, on Oct. 20, a spokesperson for the company claimed, in part, that the former staffer was “the only employee to access detailed, sensitive data on four titles that later appeared in the press.”
Oct. 29, 4:10 p.m.: Updated with statement from Netflix.
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