Pokemon Go developer Niantic loses arbitration bid in sexual bias lawsuit

"Niantic's 'augmented reality' might work in games, but it doesn't work in the courtroom."
A giant Pikachu balloon brought out for the Go Fest festivities.
Photo via Niantic

A class action lawsuit against Pokémon Go developer Niantic regarding an internal “sexist work culture that disadvantages female employees” is moving forward after the Los Angeles County Superior Court denied the company’s attempts at arbitration. 

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Back on July 7, a lawsuit against Niantic was filed that claimed the company “systemically devalued the work of female employees” and alleged several violations of the California Equal Pay Act and other fair employment laws. This came less than a week after Niantic cut hundreds of jobs, canceled several games, and shuttered its Los Angeles studio—where the filing employee worked since 2020. 

At the time, the anonymous woman claimed that she was being paid significantly less than several male colleagues who shared similar responsibilities or job titles. She then raised concerns with other female employees through an internal resources group Wolfpack, getting a collective agreement that “men were favored and valued over women” at the company. 

Talks with Niantic’s diversity director and principal people partner after that allegedly made the employee fear for her job as the talk “made clear that they and male upper management at Niantic were hostile” toward voiced concerns about sexual bias. This was followed by reported internal censoring and stifling of communication for Wolfpack, to which the filing notes fed into Niantic creating “a hostile, offensive, and oppressive work environment” for women.”

Now, more than four months later, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled to deny all three of the areas of Niantic’s approach to this case of alleged pay discrimination, retaliation, silencing, and systemic sexual bias being standard operating procedure at Niantic as of July 2023. Those attempts saw the company attempting to compel women involved into individual and binding arbitration, strike the class allegations and prevent the further pursuit of claims, and stay any legal proceedings until the arbitration reached an outcome. 

“Gender based hostile work environments take many forms, as can be seen from the allegations in this case,” attorney Nicholas Sarris said in a press release. “The #MeToo movement helped the law evolve and carries on by enabling women to fight for systemic change in court instead of being fragmented into secret individual arbitrations.” With this ruling, the women now plan to continue their suit in hopes of holding “the company accountable for violations of the California Equal Pay Act and the Fair Employment & Housing Act’s prohibitions against discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation.”

Attorney Genie Harrison goes on to explain that the women involved in this case alleged “there is a ubiquitous, gender-based hostile working environment at Niantic, with Niantic going so far as to try to outlaw female workers from uttering the phrase ‘boys club.’

“Niantic argued that the Ending Forced Arbitration Act, the law that ended forced individual arbitrations in these types of cases, doesn’t mean what it says,” Harrison said. “Niantic’s ‘augmented reality’ might work in games, but it doesn’t work in the courtroom. Gone are the days when employers could hide gender-based discrimination, harassment, and equal pay violations behind forced individual arbitrations. We look forward to prosecuting this case in court on behalf of the women of Niantic.”

No further information regarding the next hearing or steps being taken in this class action lawsuit has been shared yet.

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Author
Cale Michael
Lead Staff Writer for Dota 2, the FGC, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and more who has been writing for Dot Esports since 2018. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from Oklahoma Christian University and also previously covered the NBA. You can usually find him writing, reading, or watching an FGC tournament.