A Netflix employee and a former staffer have filed a labor complaint against the company, accusing the streaming giant of retaliating against them for trying to speak out against its handling of controversy surrounding comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special.
B. Pagels-Minor and Terra Field filed the unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board this week, saying its decision to air the Chappelle special “demeaned” and “endangered” transgender people and significantly impacted the working conditions at Netflix.
The Verge was the first to report on the complaint.
The pair said the streamer targeted them for speaking out about Chappelle’s special and its anti-transgender comments. Pagels-Minor, a Black trans program manager, organized a Netflix employee walkout and was later fired by the company for allegedly leaking confidential metrics and financial information about the special and some of the streamer’s other projects to Bloomberg. Pagels-Minor has denied the allegation.
Field, a software engineer, was one of three staffers suspended after attending a director-level meeting the streamer says she wasn’t invited to, though she was reinstated after the company found no misconduct.
“Netflix engaged in [firing and suspending Pagels-Minor and Field respectively] 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,” Bay Area attorney Laurie M. Burgess said in the statement of charge submitted on behalf of Pagels-Minor and Field.
The two had previously signed Netflix employment agreements, which requires them to settle disputes in private arbitration. However, the choice to file with the NLRB would help the workers attain collective action, with the goal of sweeping change and accountability for all workers at the company.
“Rights exist to be exercised and defended, and nobody will silence me in my defense of myself, my coworkers, or my community,” Field said in a tweet addressing the NLRB filing.
The NLRB is currently investigating the charges leveled against Netflix by B. Pagels-Minor and Terra Field. If the allegations have merit, the NLRB may try to get a settlement or issue a formal complaint on behalf of the employees. Besides settling, Netflix may be forced to take other measures, such as issuing a statement about worker’s rights around protected activity, like speaking out or protesting.
Netflix has denied retaliating against the employees.
“We recognize the hurt and pain caused to our trans colleagues over the last few weeks,” a Netflix spokesperson told Insider. “But we want to make clear that Netflix has not taken any action against employees for either speaking up or walking out.”
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos has defended Chappelle and his comedy special in the past few weeks. He previously stated his belief that the special “doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” but walked back those comments saying he “screwed up.”
Meanwhile, Dave Chappelle responded to the controversy this week saying that he was willing to meet with and listen to the trans community, but added that he would not be “bending to anyone’s demands.” In his response, Chappelle praised Sarandos’ support and mocked queer comedian Hannah Gadsby, who tore into Sarandos for defending Chappelle.
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