Netflix workers file charges against company after Chappelle special

Two trans Netflix workers file labor charges claiming the company retaliated against them for raising complaints about Dave Chappelle’s controversial comedy special: One was fired and the other was suspended

  • Two Netflix workers filed labor charges with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the company retaliated against them 
  • B. Pagels-Minor and Terra Field allege in their charge that Netflix retaliated against for raising complaints about Dave Chappelle’s The Closer
  • Pagels-Minor, a black transgender program manager, was fired for allegedly leaking the multi-million dollar salary Chappelle earned for the special 
  • Field, a transgender software engineer, was one of three employees who was suspended for attempting to join a director-level meeting; she was reinstated
  • Netflix’s co-chief executive Reed Hastings defended the platform’s decision to continue streaming The Closer  
  • Netflix’s other co-chief executive, Ted Sarandos, also defended the special noting the trans community’s concerns, but denied real-world harm 

Two transgender Netflix employees filed labor charges against the company claiming they were retaliated against for raising complaints about Dave Chappelle’s controversial comedy special streaming on the platform.

B. Pagels-Minor and Terra Field are filing unfair labor practice charges, with the National Labor Relations Board, against Netflix. They claim the streaming platform tried to keep employees from speaking out about working conditions and Netflix’s commitment to foster a safe environment.  

Pagels-Minor, a program manager, was fired for allegedly leaking the multi-million dollar salary Chappelle earned for The Closer. Field, a software engineer, was one of three employees who was suspended for attempting to join a director-level meeting. They both identify as transgender.

Pagels-Minor, a black transgender person, has denied that they shared the confidential information that Netflix paid $24.1 million for The Closer. Field was reinstated in her position once she confirmed ‘there was no ill-intent in my attending the QBR meeting’.  

Chappelle has courted controversy with his jokes in The Closer in which he asserts ‘gender is a fact,’ and criticizes the trans community as thin-skinned.   

B. Pagels-Minor (left) and Terra Field (right), who are both transgender, are filing unfair labor practice charges against Netflix alleging that the streaming platform retaliated against them for speaking out against Dave Chappelle’s controversial comedy special The Closer

Chappelle continues to face backlash over the controversial contents of his latest Netflix special which critics say were transphobic

Netflix has continued to stand by Chappelle and his comedy special which was released on the streaming platform October 5

‘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,’ attorney Laurie Burgess told The Verge.

‘The charge is all about collective action. It’s about supporting your coworkers and speaking up for things you care about.’ 

Pagels-Minor and Field filed the charge with the NLRB, which will investigate the allegations to determine if a settlement can be secured or a complaint can be issued. 

If a settlement is secured, the two can be reinstated with backpay and the company will be forced to post a notice that workers are allowed to engage in protected activity. 

Both of these outcomes are very important to the two. 

Pagels-Minor is 35 weeks pregnant and lost their health insurance when they was  fired.

‘Amidst all the stress, I am trying to take one day at a time and focus on my health,’ they said. 

‘As a high-risk pregnancy, I have to be careful. We don’t even know what our health insurance situation is, and we are scheduled to be in a hospital having a baby in less than 30 days.’

Field filed for medical leave after being flooded with death threats and doxxing.

 ‘This is what happens with trans people — we’re tolerated as long as we’re quiet, but if we speak up we get harassed,’ she said. 

‘It has been a really stressful few weeks, but I intend to keep fighting for our community.’ 



Field openly criticized The Closer on Twitter, publishing a 40-tweet-long thread on Thursday last week, explaining the harm that comments made in the special would have on the trans community.

She also included a list of 38 trans and nonbinary men and women of color who she said had been killed, adding in each case that the victim ‘is not offended.’ 

In Field’s Twitter posts last week, she said that Dave Chappelle was being criticized not because his comments are offensive but for the harm they do to the trans community, especially black women.

Pagels-Minor, a black transgender person, said that while they were not behind the leak, they did confirm that they were pushing for ‘change’ at the company after sharing ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ content with executives. 

‘I shared my story with Netflix content executives last year as a part of a conversation to facilitate more trans content on the platform. I wasn’t the only one. Trans colleagues remained utterly professional as they also shared their stories,’ wrote Pagels-Minor, who transitioned in 2014 after meeting their now-wife.

‘We asked to be seen as equals. We asked them to recognize our stories, to see that we deserve a place on the platform. We felt vulnerable, but at least they heard us.’

Pagels-Minor added that the company did not consult with the internal Trans Employee Resource Group before releasing Chappelle’s special, which they characterized as harmful.

Netflix employees staged a walk out on October 20 to protest Chappelle’s comedy special

Activists gathered outside the company’s offices on October 20 in support of the transgender community 

‘The release of Chappelle’s special, ‘The Closer,’ happened without consulting the Trans* Employee Resource Group (ERG), of which I was a member and co-leader.’

‘The ERG might have recommended not releasing the special — but that if that wasn’t an option, we could have offered other ways to minimize the harm it could do to our community and to the company.’

‘But Netflix didn’t ask for guidance, deeply miscalculating the impact of this inflammatory, inaccurate and dangerous content,’ they continued.

Pagels-Minor had organized an employee walkout earlier this month at the company’s Sunset Boulevard building following LGBTQ backlash against the comedian over controversial material he used in his Netflix comedy special, and by 7 pm that evening, they had been terminated from the company. 

They also cited the ill-planned timing for Chappelle’s Netflix special, which was released during LGBTQ+ history month and a day before the anniversary of the slaying of Matthew Shepard.

‘The ERG could have suggested that the special not be released in October, during LGBTQ+ history month. 

‘Perhaps, they could have considered not doing it on October 5, the day before the anniversary of the brutal death of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie on the night of Oct. 6, 1998.’

The Closer was the third and last special Chappelle will produce for Netflix per his contract with the company. The Closer has scored 96 percent positive reviews from regular viewers on Rotten Tomatoes – but just 43 per cent from woke critics. 

Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings told staff the firm was ‘on the right side of history’ for continuing to stream and promote Dave Chappelle’s controversial comedy special The Closer.

A leaked transcript from an internal Netflix message board between company employees recorded disagreements about Chappelle’s controversial comedy special.

Hastings told employees that Chappelle is ‘a unique voice’ as he defended the comedian who has come under fire for his defense of author J.K. Rowling and jokes a vocal few are calling transphobic.

Transgender employees were so upset by ‘The Closer’ and Netflix’s stance that they joined Pagels-Minor in a staged walkout Wednesday.

When one employee asked if the company was ‘making the wrong historical choice around hate speech’ on the internal message board, Hastings replied ‘To your macro question on being on the right side of history, we will always continue to reflect on the tensions between freedom and safety.

‘I do believe that our commitment to artistic expression and pleasing our members is the right long term choice for Netflix, and that we are on the right side, but only time will tell,’ according to The New York Times.

Netflix’s co-chief executive Reed Hastings defended the platform’s decision to continue streaming The Closer saying the company was ‘on the right side of history’

 Netflix’s other co-chief executive, Ted Sarandos, has also defended the special noting the trans community’s concerns while insisting ‘that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm’

He also noted that Chappelle is popular with viewers, citing the ‘stickiness’ of his most recent special. 

Hastings wrote: ‘The core strategy is to please our members.’

‘In stand-up comedy, comedians say lots of outrageous things for effect. Some people like the art form, or at least particular comedians, and others do not.’

Another employee claimed that the famous comedian had a history of homophobia and bigotry.

Hastings replied: ‘We disagree with your characterization and we’ll continue to work with Dave Chappelle in the future.

‘We see him as a unique voice, but can understand if you or others never want to watch his show.’

He continued: ‘We do not see Dave Chappelle as harmful, or in need of any offset, which we obviously and respectfully disagree on.’

Hannah Gadsby calls out Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos for defending Dave Chappelle

The Australian lesbian comedian dragged Sarandos on Instagram:

‘Hey Ted Sarandos! Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn’t drag my name into your mess. 

Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chappelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view. 

You didn’t pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted. 

F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult…

I do s**ts with more back bone than you. That’s just a joke!

I definitely didn’t cross a line because you just told the world there isn’t one.’  

This comes as Hastings’ fellow co-chief executive, Ted Sarandos, was dragged by Australian lesbian comedian Hannah Gadsby after he used her comedy specials as examples of the streaming platform’s efforts for inclusivity as he defended Chappelle and his comedy special. 

Sarandos said that Netflix ‘was working hard to ensure marginalized communities aren’t defined by a single story’ specifically noting ‘we have Sex Education, Orange Is the New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.’

Gadsby, who has two comedy specials on Netflix, rose to fame after her first special Nanette began streaming on Netflix in 2018.

She posted on Instagram asking Sarandos not to ‘drag [her] name into [his] mess.’

‘F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult…’ she wrote.

Sarandos addressed staff anger over Netflix’s decision to stream The Closer in a company wide email.

‘We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix,’ Sarandos wrote in the email, obtained by Variety.

‘With ‘The Closer,’ we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.)

‘Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,’ he continued. 

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