Vernie Roberts Jr., a former Telltale Games employee, has started the process to launch a class-action lawsuit on behalf of himself and the approximately 250 employees who were laid off from the studio without warning last week.
The Bay Area video game studio responsible for The Walking Dead game franchise told its workers that they would receive no severance pay and would lose their health insurance on September 30. Many of the laid off employees will not be eligible for unemployment benefits either due to their contract worker status. The only compensation offered by the company, according to Variety, was a Linkedin recommendation written by CEO Pete Hawley.
Since the mass layoff, the studio has not responded to any media requests about the treatment of its employees, though it has taken the time to update its Twitter with details about the future of The Walking Dead games.
Roberts’ complaint, filed in San Francisco by Farella Bruan & Martell, Lankenau & Miller, and The Gardner Firm, asks for unpaid wages and benefits for sixty days, citing a violation of the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), a 30-year-old federal and state law that requires large companies to provide a 60 calendar-day advance written warning before any mass layoff.
In a discussion of the situation on Polygon, an attorney pointed out that Telltale could cite a “business circumstances” exception in its defense, but that the exception would only work for the federal portion of the law. The company, however, is in a “precarious compliance position” with California state’s version of the WARN law, giving workers a chance of succeeding in a trial.
An exposé published on The Verge earlier this year highlighted Telltale’s poor management, including such accusations as underpaying employees and a toxic “crunch culture” (including 14- to 18-hour work days, up to six days of the week).
After the layoffs, Game Workers Unite, an organization pushing to organize the video game industry, released a statement about the situation that included powerful criticism of the company’s management: “Let us be clear. The executives at Telltale are incompetent. They are exploitative. They knew that this was coming and failed to warn anybody. We know that the management disregards their workers. Several reports have continually highlighted the working conditions at Telltale, demonstrating that this is more of the ongoing prioritization of board members and shareholders that has existed since the studio’s founding – always to the detriment of their employees.”
Roberts is demanding a trial by jury for the case. Here is the complaint filed yesterday:
Roberts Jr. v. Telltale Gam… by on Scribd