Last October, Netflix took action against a staffer who allegedly leaked confidential information to the press. As a result, public outcry ensued over the amount paid to world renowned comedian Dave Chapelle for a special distributed by Netflix that contained content addressing the trans community. A staffer walkout organized, inspiring transgender celebrities to make statements in support of staffers presenting a list of demands for Netflix to invest in trans or non-binary content, better manage employee relations, and reduce harm. Responding to this, Netflix offered a mea culpa suggesting they should have acknowledged that their staff was hurting, and asserting that they would work towards improvement within their ranks and content to support the LGBTQ community. Netflix assured they are already addressing funding, citing the Creative Equity Fund used for LGBTQ content.
Unless you have ever worked or applied to work at Netflix, you may not be aware of their corporate culture. In a nutshell, it speaks of direct, open communication and accountability, which is why initial attempts by Netflix to address the outcry (publishing internal memos) seemed unaligned because they appeared defensive, not receptive to what otherwise would be viewed as “constructive criticism.” Netflix’s corporate culture also speaks about “sharing information openly, broadly, and deliberately,” so when fired staffer stated in a news article by Deadline, that she had gathered data to share it internally (and not with the press), it seems curious the streamer would fire her for what appears to be conduct aligned with the corporate culture. However, reports state that the reason for her firing was due to her allegedly leaking the confidential information externally, to the press (Bloomberg). Now that the staffer has instituted a retaliation claim against Netflix, it seems we will find out more “facts” as the case proceeds.
Corporate cultures can often be a reason employees are attracted to work at a company. Standard employee agreements usually involve some type of confidentiality and non-disclosure requirements. Drawing the fine lines around what qualifies as “confidential information,” and what may be “shared broadly” seems to be critical if Netflix does not wish to repeat this controversy. Non-disclosure may establish both within an organization (i.e. HR)and outside, which limitations are most familiar to employees. Ideally, the case, if it proceeds, will enable us to look into the nuances of this issue.