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Netflix memo encourages recruiters to avoid talking about Dave Chappelle

Netflix memo encourages recruiters to avoid talking about Dave Chappelle

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The controversy around The Closer continues to have repercussions at the company

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Netflix sent recruiters talking points on how to avoid discussing The Closer with job candidates, according to a leaked memo obtained by The Verge. The memo tells members of the talent acquisition team not to comment on Dave Chappelle’s stand-up set, which sparked a national conversation about transphobia, cancel culture, and comedy.

“Find a way to respectfully end and move on from the topic if you’re pressed further on the topic in areas not covered in the talking points,” the memo reads. 

In a section titled “The Closer and employees,” Netflix encourages recruiters to state: “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chose to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

The memo hints at concerns Netflix might have had regarding its ability to hire in the wake of the Dave Chappelle controversy. While the issue did not translate into a business problem for the company in terms of known account cancellations, it appears some executives worried it could dissuade talent from wanting to join the company. 

Historically, Netflix prided itself on being able to hire and retain top talent by paying above market rates, according to CEO Reed Hastings’ book No Rules Rules. But after the company released The Closer and doubled down on its support of Chappelle, at least two trans engineers resigned. Another trans employee, B. Pagels-Minor, was fired. (The company said Pagels-Minor had allegedly leaked confidential information — a charge the employee denied.) 

In the memo, Netflix told recruiters to respond to questions about the termination by saying, “We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company. We understand they may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.” 

The memo says that if pressed, recruiters should add “this employee was the only person to access this specific information and admitted to sharing confidential information externally.”

Pagels-Minor filed an unfair labor practice charge against Netflix after they were terminated. They have since settled with the streaming giant and voluntarily withdrawn the charge. 

Read the full memo below:

Pointers:

  • Discuss these points in response to candidate inquiries. Use your best judgment here. This isn’t intended to be a script, but points you can pull from if you’re asked.
  • Avoid commenting directly on The Closer, since Netflix is not commenting publicly about it.
  • Find a way to respectfully end and move on from the topic if you’re pressed further on the topic in areas not covered in the talking points. 

Talking Points:

The Closer and Employees

  • I can’t comment on The Closer
  • We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused.
  • On employee termination: We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company. We understand they may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company. 
  • If needed: this employee was the only person to access this specific information and admitted to sharing confidential information externally.
  • On October 20th Walk Out: Again, we value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chose to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.
  • If needed: CEO Ted Sarandos addressed the situation on 10/19/21 in a series of interviews

Netflix and Inclusion

  • As a company, we are committed to inclusion. We are working hard to ensure more people see their lives reflected on screen and that underrepresented communities are not defined by a single story. 
  • We are working to increase representation for all groups that have been marginalized by the entertainment industry.

Netflix declined to comment.