Controversial 'joke' | Netflix suspends trans worker who crashed exec meeting to protest comedy show

Netflix suspends trans worker who crashed exec meeting to protest comedy show

Netflix has reportedly suspended a band of employees who crashed an executive meeting to protest a new comedy special containing a joke about transgender people.

As reported by Variety, the streaming giant has been hit with claims that it suspended three workers, one of whom identifies as trans, for showing up to a virtual quarterly business review – a meeting attended by the firm’s top 500 employees.

According to the publication, Terra Field – a senior software engineer who identifies as queer and trans, and two other employees who were not invited to the virtual gathering which took place last week, were suspended by the company after attending the meeting without permission.

They allegedly objected to Netflix’s decision to air a new special from comedian Dave Chappelle, in which he voiced support for the ‘TERF’ movement (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and added: “Gender is a fact.”

The joke has been met with backlash online and, following the incident at Netflix’s internal meeting, reports surfaces that Field and fellow protestors have been suspended.

Field had also spoken out on Twitter about the comedy special, saying the show “directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act. This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”

According to Variety, a Netflix internal memo from co-CEO Ted Sarandos said: “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”

A spokesperson for Netflix insisted that Field’s suspension was unrelated to the Twitter thread.

The firm told the LA Times: “It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”

Workplace activism

Recent statistics showcase how much employee activism is on the rise – so much so that a study by Weber Shandwick previously revealed that four in ten workers had spoken up to support or criticise their employers’ actions.

Social media could certainly be a contributing factor, as the platforms offer employees the opportunity to express criticism of their firm. However, it could also be down to the new generation of workers – Millennials and Gen-Z.

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These workers are known to identify strongly with purpose and how a business aligns itself to employees’ own beliefs.

This is reflected in stats shared by Covestro, which found that roughly 70% of executives indicated that over the last five years they’ve seen an increase in the number of Millennials (71%), Gen Xers (69%) and Baby Boomers (46%) who want the opportunity for more social purpose work while on the job.

The flipside being that employees could feel like speaking out if they feel the purpose of the job they were hired for matches up to day-to-day machinations inside the organisation.

How HR can manage activist employees

Employees may make a stand against their employer because they are disengaged or are simply responding to “a lack of open dialogue on change of behaviours or practices in organisations that could be interpreted as unfair, or incites inequality”, Andrea Smith, HR Director, Transformation UK&I at multinational beauty firm Coty, previously told HR Grapevine.

She said that to manage this within a workforce, HR teams should consider rolling out employee opinion surveys, which would allow staff to feel they are making a difference and contributing to policy changes, while also helping to mould a culture that is inclusive of everyone.

Smith explained: “A lack of accessible open dialogue in companies can quickly escalate to employees using external methods and platforms that can damage employer branding and reputation on corporate social responsibility.”

Create a forum for debate

Although Field bravely took to social media to share her feelings about Netflix, for some, the thought of sharing their story with the whole working community may be overwhelming.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t promote a discussion within the workplace. Many companies such as Harper Collins and PinkNews have set up groups within their organisations in which people can get together and discuss the issues that they’re facing.

Creating these ‘safe space’ groups is an ideal place for people to share their own experiences and discuss key issues that they face. These groups ideally also contain a leader who can share any key findings with the C-Suite and bring about change as a result. Remember however, no one should ever feel pressured to share their stories.

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