The blast radius from the controversy over Dave Chappelle’s repeated remarks about the trans and LGBTQ+ communities in his Netflix special The Closer has now extended to the National Labor Relations Board and bruising charges of “unfair labor practices” against the streamer.
Naming co-CEO Ted Sarandos as the “employer representative,’ fired Netflix program manager B. Pagels-Minor and suspended senior software engineer Terra Field filed paperwork with the federal agency on October 27 over the “false and pretextual reasons” and “retaliation” leveled against them respectively
“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,” exclaimed the statement of charge that Bay Area attorney Laurie M. Burgess submitted for the non-binary identifying Pagels-Minor and trans Field.
Having failed repeatedly to quell the backlash and an October 20 protest/walkout over Chappelle’s sixth special on its platform, Netflix was conciliatory today – to a point.
“We recognize the hurt and pain caused to our trans colleagues over the last few weeks,” a spokesperson for the streamer told Deadline this afternoon. “But we want to make clear that Netflix has not taken any action against employees for either speaking up or walking out.”
News of the NLRB filing was first reported today by The Verge.
In a October 25 released video promoting the latest dates on his current tour for his Untitled documentary, Chappelle has said he is willing to meet with members of the trans community. However, in listing off his condition for such a sit-down and praising Sarandos and Netflix, the comic also insists “I am not bending to anyone’s demands.”
On the other hand, Sarandos won’t jeopardize his and the streamer’s lucrative relationship with Chappelle out of this crisis. But the co-CEO clearly, he could go back to being the relatively unblemished happy disrupter again. As Netflix employees, former showrunners, GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition condemned Chappelle’s denigrations of the trans community, Sarandos initially defended the comic and the special against claims of transphobia, saying it did not “cross the line” on hate speech.
Soon being made aware the betrayal a number of his own staff felt and the way it was playing in the press, Sarando suddenly became a kinder and gentler boss in his stance – at least on the surface.
“I screwed up the internal communication — and I don’t mean just mechanically,” the exec said in a series of calibrated media appearances as a October 20 walkout by Netflix trans staffers and others loomed. “I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.”
Still, after criticizing the streamer over the Chappelle special, Field and two other staffers were suddenly suspended in early October for supposedly attending a virtual meeting they shouldn’t have. The trio was reinstated pretty soon after as the absurdity of the situation and the timing became public.
Yet, at almost the same time, walkout organizer Pagels-Minor was pink slipped for supposedly leaking very specific compensation info on Chappelle and others to the media. Led by leak obsessed co-CEO Reed Hastings, the rarely transparent Netflix has been in beast mode to stop leaks from the Chappelle fallout or any other matter.
Fired, but obviously not bowed, Pagels-Minor on-the-record denied that anything was leaked. The very pregnant Pagels-Minor spoke the more than 100 people mix of Netflix staffers and supporters last week a the protest outside the streamer’s Vine Street offices in Hollywood.
“I want my child to grow up in a world where they see that their parent, a Black, trans person — because I exist, contrary to what the special says, contrary to what many people say — that I’m valued, and I’m an important person,” Pagels-Minor proclaimed to cheers from the crowd.
It now seems, going to the NLRB, Pagels-Minor and Fields want Netlflix to take some responsibility.