Netflix Fires Employee Who Organized Walkout Over Dave Chappelle Controversy

Netflix fired an employee who organized a trans employee walkout Friday amid the ongoing controversy surrounding Netflix's handling of Dave Chappelle's special The Closer. The employee, who also leads a trans employee resource group, is also allegedly behind the leak of detailed financial information about The Closer and Chappelle's previous special Sticks & Stones compared to other Netflix comedy projects to Bloomberg. The employee walkout is planned for Wednesday, Oct. 20.

The former employee, who is Black and currently pregnant, told The Verge they did not want their name published out of fear of online harassment. "All these white people are going around talking to the press and speaking publicly on Twitter and the only person who gets fired is the Black person who was quiet the entire time," a former employee told The Verge. "That's absurd, and just further shows that Black trans people are the ones being targeted in this conversation."

Netflix also confirmed the employee was fired. "We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company," a spokesperson for the streamer said. "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."

On Wednesday, Bloomberg published a report on the internal response to The Closer among Netflix employees. The leaked data shows Netflix spent $24.1 million on The Closer, a little more than Sticks & Stones, which cost $23.6 million. Netflix only spent $21.4 million to acquire the nine-episode Squid Game and just $3.9 million for Bo Burnham's special Inside. Data like this is often shared among Netflix employees, but only on the condition that the information is not leaked to the public. But the controversy surrounding The Closer, which includes transphobic jokes, has inspired some employees to leak the data.

Netflix released The Closer on Oct. 5, and it has led to a unique crisis in the company's history as employees speak out against it. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has responded to the outcry twice, first with a memo on Oct. 8 in which he said the company doesn't release titles that are "designed to incite hate or violence, and we don't believe The Closer crosses that line." On Monday, Sarandos sent another email to all staff that was later obtained by Variety.

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"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 Monday's email. "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."

In response to Sarandos' email, GLAAD noted that media representation of LGBTQ people does have consequences. "Authentic media stories about LGBTQ lives have been cited as directly responsible for increasing public support for issues like marriage equality," the group told Variety. "But film and TV have also been filled with stereotypes and misinformation about us for decades, leading to real-world harm, especially for trans people and LGBTQ people of color. Ironically, the documentary 'Disclosure' on Netflix demonstrates this quite clearly."