Netflix Employee Organizing Chappelle Walkout Fired for Leaking Info to Press

Netflix has fired an employee who was a leader in the trans employee resource group and was helping to organize an upcoming walkout in protest of Dave Chappelle’s The Closer, The Verge reports.

The employee is Black and pregnant and did not wish to be named for fear of online retribution or harassment. The employee was reportedly fired because they were suspected of sharing internal metrics about The Closer — including how much Netflix paid for the special and its viewership numbers — to the press (that information appeared in a Bloomberg article about internal disputes over the special).

But while the employee appears to have shared the private information internally, they also reportedly spoke out against the leaks to colleagues out of concern that they might hurt the upcoming walkout. 

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In a statement provided to Rolling Stone, a spokesperson for Netflix said: “We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company. We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.”

Although The Closer is not the first Chappelle special to include questionable material about trans people and the LGBTQ community, it’s arguably sparked the biggest backlash, especially inside Netflix. Following the special’s release, employees at Netflix began using an open Q&A document to raise questions about how the company plans to navigate the line between commentary and transphobia. Three employees were also briefly suspended after trying to attend an executive board meeting, including one trans employee who’d criticized the special on Twitter (the suspensions were not related to those comments and the three employees were eventually reinstated after an investigation). 

On Wednesday, it was revealed that trans employees and other allies at Netflix were planning a walkout (dubbed a “day of rest”), to take place October 19th following a virtual event where Netflix staffers will get the chance to discuss Chappelle’s special. Per reports, the walkout does not appear to be about pressuring Netflix to remove The Closer, but rather pushing the streaming giant to acknowledge the harm material like Chappelle’s can have on the LGBTQ+ community. They also want to push Netflix to release more LGBTQ+ content.

Netflix, meanwhile, has stood by its decision to release the special. In a leaked memo to staff, Co-CEO Ted Sarandos pushed back on the notion that jokes in The Closer had real-world consequences for people: While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” he said. 

Sarandos statement drew plenty of criticism of its own. Another major Netflix comedy star, Hannah Gadsby, slammed Sarandos for touting Netflix’s LGBTQ+-friendly titles, including her specials Nanette and Douglas, in his memo. “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,” Gadsby said.

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