Hundreds of Netflix employees today are expected to participate in a mass walkout led by the company’s trans employee resource group after company leadership purportedly turned a deaf ear to jokes deemed by many to be transphobic and harmful to the LGBTQ+ community.
Netflix received backlash over comedian Dave Chappelle’s most recent standup special, where he allegedly made some transphobic comments. The situation worsened after a memo from Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos attempted to justify the Chappelle special, according to some employees. The memo reportedly read: “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
But a Netflix staffer told The Hollywood Reporter: “The memo was very disrespectful.”
Netflix, for the most part, has been celebrated in the past for its inclusive and open culture. Employees at all levels are reportedly encouraged to give blunt feedback without fear of retaliation.
However, according to some employees, the recent events indicate otherwise. First, Netflix suspended (then reinstated) Terra Field, a trans employee who wrote a viral Twitter thread criticising the choice to air the special. Next came the news that Netflix had fired Pagels-Minor, a leader of the trans employee resource group who was said to be organising a walkout.
Netflix maintains that these terminations were unrelated to the ongoing protest. The company said: “Field was suspended not for her public comments, but because she and two other employees had attended a director-level meeting uninvited, while Pagels-Minor was alleged to have leaked internal metrics to the press.”
A Netflix spokesperson told Variety: “We support artistic expression for our creators. We also encourage our employees to disagree openly.”
The demand to curb potentially harmful content against the trans and non-binary community
These incidents have led to a full-blown walkout, along with a list of employee demands. In the letter, the Trans* Employee Resource Group – which includes trans and non-binary staff members and allies – wants Netflix to take immediate action in an effort to repair the relationship between the company and its employees and audiences.
As part of the demands, the letter asked to make changes to enhance Employee Relations and Safety:
- Recruit trans people, especially BIPOC, for leadership roles in the company (Director, VP, etc.) and promote an inclusive environment for them
- Allow employees to remove themselves from previous company promotional content (e.g. allyship and diversity videos, etc.)
- Eliminate references/imagery of transphobic titles or talent inside of the workplace, including but not limited to murals, posters, room names, swag, etc.
“We are employees, but we are members, too. We believe that this Company can and must do better in our quest to entertain the world, and that the way forward must include more diverse voices in order to avoid causing more harm,” the members of the ERG Trans* Netflix wrote.