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Home / News / Business / Black former Netflix worker must arbitrate discrimination, retaliation claims

Black former Netflix worker must arbitrate discrimination, retaliation claims

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A Black former Netflix Inc. employee who sued the company, alleging he was fired earlier this year because of his ethnicity and for complaining about his disparate treatment on the job will have to take his claims before an arbitrator rather than a jury, a judge ruled Thursday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven J. Kleifield agreed with Netflix attorneys that plaintiff Jerrold Ivery had signed an agreement when he was hired in 2019 to arbitrate all employment disputes. The judge put Ivery’s case on hold pending the outcome of the arbitration and scheduled a status conference for next Sept. 1.

Ivery’s lawyer, Chaka C. Okadigbo, argued that while some case law favored Netflix’s position on arbitration, there was nonetheless a split of authority. However, Netflix lawyer Ashley Farrell Pickett argued that three state appeals court cases backed the company’s position. She also said that Ivery’s employment papers had an arbitration agreement that was less than two pages long and had “very conspicuous language.”

Ivery sued on Aug. 5, alleging race discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment and retaliation. He sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“Netflix’s manner of treating Black or African-American employees is contrary to the clean public face that Netflix seeks to project,” the suit states.

Although Netflix has recently increased its percentage of staff and leadership with people of underrepresented racial and/or ethnic backgrounds, its board of directors continues to consist of mostly white males, the suit states.

“Unfortunately, the reality within Netflix is that Black or African- American employees, such as Mr. Ivery, continue to experience discrimination within Netflix,” the suit alleges.

Ivery, 52, was hired in June 2019 and worked as a production finance associate in Netflix’s Los Angeles office until his March 17 firing, the suit states.

“Netflix never provided any feedback to Mr. Ivery that indicated his work needed to improve or he would risk termination,” the suit states.

While working for Netflix, Ivery expressed concern often about two independent contractors working for Netflix, including one whom the plaintiff believes was “at the very least racially prejudiced” based on the aggressive behavior shown by the contractor, the suit states.

The contractor once shouted at Ivery for purportedly speaking too loud in a conversation with the plaintiff’s non-Black supervisor, saying it disrupted his phone call, but the contractor did not similarly berate Ivery’s boss, the suit states.

Ivery also believed the contractor was chauvinistic, based on Ivery’s observations of how the contractor interacted with women, the suit states.

Ivery filed a discrimination complaint against the contractor in October 2020, triggering an investigation that ended in February “with no actions taken to address Mr. Ivery’s concerns of discrimination,” the suit states.

Instead, less than one month after the investigation was concluded, Netflix abruptly fired Ivery, saying his emails displayed a “problematic communication style,” the suit states.

However, Netflix only brought two emails to Ivery’s attention, one that was allegedly problematic and a subsequent one that the company found acceptable and exemplary, according to the suit.

“Netflix was unbothered, however, because its goal was to terminate Mr. Ivery’s employment for filing a discrimination complaint, and any rationale, no matter how tortured, was sufficient,” the suit states.

Netflix offered flimsy reasons for Ivery’s firing and did not terminate non-Black employees who engaged in far worse conduct, the suit states.

“Netflix’s retaliatory termination of Mr. Ivery’s employment is especially offensive here, considering that Netflix has superficially tried to pass itself off as being genuinely interested in diversity and inclusion,” the suit states.

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