A former employee of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC, the makers of PlayStation, is suing the company over alleged gender discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination. The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of California on 22nd November.
The filing has been put forward by Emma Majo, a former IT security analyst who joined Sony in 2015. In it, she claimed the company ‘tolerates and cultivates a work environment that discriminates against female employees’. As a result, women at the company have suffered emotional distress and lost compensation, back pay, and employment benefits. In response to her experience, Majo has now filed charges against Sony under the Californian Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The lawsuit makes note of one of Majo’s particular managers, Yu Sugita. According to the filing, Sugita would refuse to be alone in a room with female employees if the door was closed, and when discussing work matters with both male and female staff members, he would speak only with the men present. Further, Majo alleges that she discovered she had to send requests to Sugita via a male intern; if she sent the requests herself or through another higher-level female employee, they would be ignored.
Majo also makes several claims about a severe lack of career progression for female employees. The suit alleges that the company’s HR department creates resistance for female workers trying to get promotions. In contrast, male colleagues were regularly given access to promotion opportunities, even ‘out of cycle’, i.e. during periods of the year not typically associated with role changes. In the six years she spent at the company, Majo wasn’t promoted once. When she asked her managers how she could progress her career, she was ignored and, in one instance, ‘demoted’ in response.
Ultimately, Majo wrote up her experience of gender discrimination in a signed letter that she passed on to her employer. According to the lawsuit, she was told soon afterward that she was being terminated from her role. The official reason for the dismissal was that Sony intended to dissolve an internal department. However, Majo claims she didn’t work in the department in question.
As a result of her experiences, Majo elected to take legal action against Sony. The suit has been initially filed as an Individual action, but it includes a request to form a class made up of all women employed by Sony in California at any point in the last four years. If the request is successful, the filing will become a class-action lawsuit.
This is far from the first time that a games company has been accused of gender discrimination. In 2019, Riot Games was hit with legal action from female employees, and Blizzard Entertainment is still in the midst of ongoing lawsuits on similar grounds. Making the issue much more prominent is the disconnect between player and developer diversity. Sony recently reported that 41% of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 owners are female, and yet a 2020 study revealed the company’s Executive Committee was entirely made up of male employees.
At the time of writing, Sony has not publically responded to the lawsuit.