Newly leaked documents show that Netflix investigated one of its top executives for “aggressive and intimidating” behaviour that was not inclusive of the LGBT+ community.
The internal investigation was triggered by claims made against vice president for original content in Spain and Portugal, Diego Avalos, via an anonymous tip-line.
The inquiry, which concluded this spring, found his actions to be “deeply concerning”, according to documents procured by Bloomberg.
A report stated that Avalos “used language or demonstrated an attitude in various meetings that was not inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and/or employees with children”.
In a letter sent on 9 April, Avalos’ behavior is described as “extremely direct”, with Hatimi writing that Netflix was aware his “style” could be viewed as “aggressive and intimidating”.
However, Netflix decided to allow Avalos to remain in his position. The same letter said Netflix would give Avalos a chance to “change his communication and leadership style”, and provide “tough feedback” and coaching to support this.
The news comes amid a storm of criticism over Netflix’s recent work with comedian Dave Chappelle. A number of jokes that punched down on trans people feature in Chapelle’s new comedy special, The Closer, prompting trans employees to plan a mass walkout.
Netflix fires employee who leaked investigation
The letter went on to state that a number of the company’s leaders, including global head of TV Bela Bajaria and VP of original series for EMEA Larry Tanz, knew of the investigation and would address their decision to keep Avalos on at a later date. They felt Avalos deserved a second chance, but would be “held accountable for immediate growth”.
“The decision to give Diego a chance to change his leadership and communication style, further develop his inclusion lens and rebuild trust was not made lightly,” Hatimi and Verdier wrote. It was emphasised that Avalos “took responsibility” and “owned that his choices and behaviors are inconsistent with Netflix’s values” causing “some members of the Spanish office to feel anxious and intimidated”.
The result may be less than satisfactory to critics, given Avalos is one of Netflix’s most important executives in one of its largest markets in Europe. Even more so given Netflix has now fired the employee believed to have shared details of the investigation.
A Netflix official said the employee, who was fired on Friday (15 October), had leaked confidential information that was cited in a story by Bloomberg. A Bloomberg News spokesperson said the company doesn’t discuss how it may have obtained confidential information.
Netflix has said it has made inclusion a priority in recent years, hiring a head of diversity and inclusion in 2018 and boosting representation of different racial and ethnic minorities in Hollywood.
Avalos was first hired by Netflix in 2014 as an executive working in content acquisition for Latin America. He was involved in developing and producing La Casa de Papel, also known as Money Heist, Netflix’s most-watched Spanish-language show.
Netflix refuses to budge on Dave Chappelle
Alongside prominent LGBT+ figures, many Netflix employees have spoken out against the company both internally and on social media over Dave Chappelle’s anti-trans special. The worker outcry has been one of the biggest the streaming giant has ever faced.
Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities. Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree. https://t.co/yOIyT54819
— GLAAD (@glaad) October 6, 2021
The controversy has only been fanned by top Netflix officials doubling down on their stance to stand by Chappelle and keep the special on the platform. This includes co-CEO Ted Sarandos who sent a widely criticised memo in response to the situation.
Netflix is “working hard to ensure marginalised communities aren’t defined by a single story”, said Sarandos in the memo. “So we have Sex Education, Orange Is the New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby, and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.”
“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate,” he added. “We don’t allow titles [at] Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line. I recognise, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
One of Netflix’s trans employees has said that Chappelle “is not, and has never been, the cause of this problem – he is a symptom of it”.
“Often, the people who make decisions in the industry about content at the highest levels (what gets predicted, how it is framed, and how it is promoted/marketed) check most of all of these boxes – and almost none of them are trans,” Terra Field wrote.