Video Game Company Settles Sexual Harassment, Gender Discrimination Class Action

The past few years have brought many accounts of sex discrimination, frequently including sexual harassment, in the media, entertainment, and tech industries. New York City sexual harassment attorneys often hear about sexual harassment in these workplaces. We are familiar with the way some media and tech companies can foster work environments that either allow or ignore sexual harassment. Companies in both tech and entertainment have been described as “boys’ clubs,” with work environments that significantly disadvantage and exclude women. A prominent video game company recently announced that it has settled a putative class action brought by current and former female employees alleging widespread sexual harassment, among other claims. The settlement includes $10 million in damages to be paid to class members.

Sexual harassment constitutes an unlawful form of sex discrimination under laws like the New York City Human Rights Law in two types of scenarios. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or manager demands sexual activity or contact in exchange for getting a job, keeping a job, or obtaining some other sort of employment-related benefit. The “casting couch” is a well-known example, in which an individual auditioning for a role is expected to have sex, or something similar, with a director or producer in order to get the part. Another example involves a restaurant manager who only gives the best shift assignments to servers who submit to sexual demands.

The other scenario in the legal definition of sexual harassment occurs when pervasive, unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates a hostile work environment. A single incident can support a hostile work environment if it is severe enough. Most hostile work environment claims involve multiple acts, such as ongoing remarks or jokes of a sexual nature, which a reasonable person would expect to cause offense and interfere with a professional workplace.

The class action mentioned earlier involves a video game company based in Los Angeles, with offices in New York City and other locations around the world. An investigation by the video gaming website Kotaku resulted in an August 2018 report describing accounts of the company’s “bro culture.” One former female employee related her experience as “like working at a giant fraternity.” The company’s workforce was reportedly eighty percent male at that time. Sources described various behaviors that contributed to a hostile work environment, ranging from overtly sexual conduct to more subtle acts reflecting stereotypes about women and video games.

Several months after Kotaku published its report, a group of women filed suit against the company in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The suit identified a class of women currently or formerly employed by the company. Causes of action included sexual harassment, sex discrimination, retaliation, constructive termination, and equal pay and overtime violations. The parties first publicly announced that a settlement was in the works in August 2019. The company agreed in early December to pay $10 million to a class of women who have worked at the company during the past five years.

The skilled and experienced employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate on behalf of New York City employees, former employees, and job applicants who have suffered from sexual harassment in the media industry. We represent our clients in claims under state, federal, and city law for sexual harassment and other unlawful practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

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