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Netflix employees file federal labor charge over Dave Chappelle controversy

The NLRB complaint alleges Netflix retaliated against employees for ‘speaking up’ against the company’s handling of Chappelle’s comedy special ‘The Closer.’

Two Netflix staffers who were critical of Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, “The Closer,” have filed a labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the streamer retaliated against them for protected concerted activities.

Filed Wednesday on behalf of senior software engineer Terra Field and former product manager B. Pagels-Minor, the complaint alleges that Netflix took action against the employees in order “to quell [them] 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.”

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“We recognize the hurt and pain caused to our trans colleagues over the last few weeks,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to The Times. “But we want to make clear that Netflix has not taken any action against employees for either speaking up or walking out.”

The filing, which was obtained Friday by The Times, names Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who has been at the center of the controversy because of his comments defending the special, as the employer representative.

Field, a transgender Netflix employee, had publicly criticized Netflix’s decision to release “The Closer,” which included several transphobic remarks. She was later placed on administrative leave for crashing a business meeting Netflix said was meant for directors and vice presidents. According to the NLRB complaint, this was a “meeting that she was specifically invited to attend along with hundreds of other Netflix employees.” She was reinstated following a public outcry.

Amid the backlash against “The Closer” and Netflix’s handling of the situation, Pagels-Minor — a pregnant, Black nonbinary person — announced they were organizing an employee walkout. Shortly after the announcement, they were terminated, allegedly for leaking confidential information to Bloomberg. They have denied this accusation.

According to Pagels-Minor, the filing is intended “to move the conversation forward about employee rights which is something that helps everyone.”

“This charge is not just about B. and Terra, and it’s not about Dave. It’s about trying to change the culture and having an impact for others,” added attorney Laurie Burgess, who represents Field and Pagels-Minor. “The charge is all about collective action. It’s about supporting your co-workers and speaking up for things you care about.”

According to the NLRB, employees have a right to participate in certain actions without fear of retaliation from their employers. These protected concerted activities include a coordinated refusal to work in unsafe conditions and speaking to the media about problems in the workplace. Such protections are operable regardless of whether employees are unionized.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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