A wide shot of players and banners from Pokemon Go Fest.
Photo via Niantic

Pokémon Go developer Niantic slammed with ‘sexual bias’ lawsuit after mass layoffs

This is a new development after internal shifts at the company last week.

After a round of mass layoffs last week that impacted a reported 230 employees and shuttered a Los Angeles office, Niantic is once again under fire after a former employee filed a lawsuit against the company on the basis she was shirked fair pay as Niantic “systemically devalued the work of female employees.”

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The lawsuit, filed on July 7 in California by an anonymous former employee, claims Niantic is violating the California Equal Pay Act along with several other fair employment laws in the state and a failure to prevent discrimination within the company. 

Within the filing, first shared by The Verge, the Jane Doe employee, who is listed as an Asian female, says she joined Niantic in Feb. 2020. During her over three years with the company, her salary rose from $70,000 USD to $115,000 USD in 2023. However, she learned back in 2021 she was reportedly being paid far less than a male coworker despite holding a lower position than she did—with no change in the following two years.

According to her account, she found out her $115,000 annual salary after her raise for 2023 was not only below the male employee’s reported $127,000 salary from 2022, but discovered she was being paid well under the $126,000-to-$154,000 pay band threshold. At the time, at least one other male colleague was paid more than this threshold despite sharing the same job title and level.

A player displaying Pokémon Go on their phone while out and about.
After restructuring to focus on Pokémon Go, Niantic is facing new problems. Image by David Grandmougin on Unsplash

After this discovery, the now-former employee began talking to other female employees about their compensation, which raised concerns over sexism and equal pay within the company—especially through a Niantic employee resources group for women referred to as Wolfpack. These concerns grew and the filing notes women working at Niantic “seemed to collectively agree that men were favored and valued over women,” regarding their experience of being underpaid and undervalued.

From there, the employee reports a meeting with Niantic’s diversity director and principal people partner made her fear for her job, as that talk “made clear that they and male upper management at Niantic were hostile to her complaints or voiced concerns about sexism or sexual bias in the workplace.” She was also reportedly told that her job performance was impacted and would continue to be affected by her voiced concerns. 

Following her meeting, the plaintiff withdrew from Wolfpack communications, but Niantic reportedly stifled various other communications such as a Wolfpack survey from within the company that said “many female employees viewed Niantic as a sexist work culture that disadvantages female employees.” After those results were shared, Niantic’s chief marketing manager, Mike Quigley, allegedly stepped in and had elements mentioning a “Boys Club” and sexism removed from the presentation, along with informing Wolfpack that it would no longer be allowed to survey employees without approval from Niantic upper management.

As a result of each of these factors, the filing claims Niantic “created a hostile, offensive, and oppressive work environment” for women, especially women of color. This was all before the layoffs were announced publicly on June 29, which is when employees like the plaintiff were notified of their job termination. 

Related: Niantic cuts hundreds of jobs and shuts down multiple games to focus on Pokémon Go

Niantic has been under fire for a number of game development-related issues over the last several months, but this brings the company into a new spotlight shared by the likes of Activision-Blizzard, Riot Games, and many other large groups regarding the treatment and protection of female employees.

Dot Esports has reached out to Niantic for comment on the filings.


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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.