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Netflix trans employees file allegations with labor authority

Netflix denies that it retaliated against the two employees who decried its streaming of Dave Chappelle's "The Closer."
Image: Netflix protest
People protest outside Netflix, Vine building in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, on Oct. 20, 2021.Damian Dovarganes / AP file

Two trans Netflix employees who allege the company retaliated against them for speaking out about Dave Chappelle's comedy special "The Closer" have filed federal allegations against the streaming platform.

The allegations were included in an unfair labor practice "charge" that was received by the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, board press secretary Kayla Blado confirmed by email.

The filing, obtained by NBC News on Friday, states that Netflix program manager B. Pagels-Minor, who was terminated, and software engineer Terra Field, who was placed on administrative leave, faced the company actions because they criticized it for streaming Chappelle's special.

The NLRB filing was reported earlier in the day by The Verge.

"The Closer" has outraged many people in the LGBTQ community for Chappelle's remarks on transgender identity, accusing him of transphobia and homophobia. It prompted fellow Netflix comedian Hannah Gadsby to proclaim that its streaming would unleash "hate and anger" on the LGBTQ community.

Netflix denies that it retaliated against the two employees for decrying the company and the "The Closer."

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

Netflix terminated Pagels-Minor on Oct. 14, hours after Pagels-Minor announced an Oct. 20 employee walkout, according to the NLRB filing. The firing, the filing claims, was based on "false and pretextual reasons."

Field, who spoke out about Pagels-Minor's termination and who tweeted that Chappelle's special "attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness," was suspended and then reinstated.

"Netflix engaged in the above activity to quell employees from speaking up about working conditions including, but not limited to, seeking to create a safe and affirming work environment for Netflix employees," the NLRB filing states.

It says the company has treated Pagels-Minor and Field "in an unlawful and disparate manner."

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos supports the special's continued presence on his platform, but said on Oct. 19 that he "screwed up" when it came to communicating with employees hurt by Chappelle's words.

Chappelle said in a video posted Monday on Instagram that he would meet with Netflix trans employees under certain conditions.

He said the backlash against him and his special "is about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say."

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2021, 11 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article used misgendered pronouns for B. Pagels-Minor. Pagels-Minor's pronouns are they/them/their, not her/she/hers.