Two weeks after the debut of Dave Chappelle’s stand-up special “The Closer” on Netflix, the streaming giant is still grappling with an internal backlash as a group of its employees prepare to hold a virtual walkout and a former employee has spoken publicly about being laid off recently.
The walkout, slated for Wednesday, is the latest episode of employee unrest surrounding the special, leading to the kind of tough media coverage normally targeted at other tech companies like Facebook and Google.
Many Netflix staff were angry with Mr. Chappelle’s special, criticizing it as transphobic and harmful to transgender people. Netflix CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos were steadfast in their support for Mr. Chappelle in staff communications, and argued that his special was popular with subscribers and would not result in any prejudice in the real world.
Netflix also fired an employee last week for “sharing confidential and commercially sensitive information outside the company.” This information was included in a Bloomberg report that included budget totals for Mr. Chappelle’s specials as well as internal metrics that showed how valuable the specials were relative to their budgets.
B. Pagels-Minor, a former program director at Netflix who is transgender, admitted to being the laid-off worker in an interview on Tuesday. Laurie Burgess, lawyer representing Mx. Pagels-Minor, who prefers a courtesy title and neutral pronouns, said: âB. categorically denies having disclosed sensitive information to the press.
A Netflix representative said in a statement Tuesday that “while we normally never discuss an investigation like this,” the company claims that “this employee admitted to sharing confidential information externally from his mail Netflix electronics several times “. The statement added that “they were the only employee with access to detailed and sensitive data on four titles which were subsequently published in the press.”
Mx. Pagels-Minor, 36, said in the interview that they found last week’s memos from Mr Sarandos “very contemptuous”.
âThe tone of the post was basically this: you, the employees, can’t understand the nuance of comedy, and that’s why you’re upset,â Mx. Pagels-Minor said. “That’s not the point. It’s not that we don’t understand comedy. It’s that this comedy has tones of hate. And what are we going to do to tone that down?
Mx. Pagels-Minor was a leading resource group for transgender and black employees at Netflix. Additionally, they have been featured in Netflix promotional videos celebrating workforce diversity, with headlines such as “Netflix Employees Celebrate Pride” and “Netflix Employees Explain What It Means To Be Black To Them.”
Mx. Pagels-Minor, who is 33 weeks pregnant, said they were one of the organizers of the walkout. Within hours of posting Thursday’s walkout on a company Slack channel, Mx. Pagels-Minor said, they heard from their manager. Mx. Pagels-Minor was made redundant that day.
âI have no bad will towards Netflix,â they said. “I want them to be successful, but the only way to be successful is by sticking to the values ââthey represent.”
Wednesday morning, a rally is scheduled outside Netflix headquarters in Los Angeles as a “kick-off” to the walkout, according to a social media article announcing the protest. The rally will include activists and public figures, and a “list of firm demands” will be sent to Mr Sarandos, according to the publication.
Netflix software engineer Terra Field wrote a blog post on Medium Monday detailing his “whirlwind” experience since posting a viral Twitter thread on October 6 that said Mr. Chappelle’s special “is attacking the trans community. and the very validity of the transit. . “
In the post, Ms Field, who is transgender, said she was not asking that “The Closer” be removed from Netflix. On the contrary, she hoped that the leaders would take concrete steps, in particular to “stop pretending that transphobia in the media has no effect on society”. Ms Field said she hoped Netflix would attach a warning to “The Closer” and other series on the streaming service that have been criticized as transphobic, and to promote “other queer and trans content after the people have consumed this content “.
Of ‘The Closer’ Ms Field wrote: ‘It’s not nice to have worked at the company that started it. Especially when we have spent years shaping the policies and benefits of the company to make it a great place for trans people.
âA place cannot be a great place to work if someone has to betray their community to do it,â she added.
There have already been several tense moments between Netflix core employees and senior executives in recent days. In an emotional company-wide meeting on Friday, several staff members asked Mr. Sarandos difficult and persistent questions about the special and the company’s response to criticism.
In an interview with Variety on Tuesday, Mr Sarandos conceded that he had ‘messed up’ in his communications with Netflix employees about their concerns, but he defended the company’s decision to offer M’s special. Chappelle. âI don’t believe this falls into hate speech,â he said.
Nicole sperling contributed reports.