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Star Citizen developer ordered to pay £27k to disabled worker in return-to-office discrimination claim

"I've been fighting this by myself for two years."

Star Citizen character looks out over a planet with the start twingling above
Image credit: Cloud Imperium Games

Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) must pay more than £27k to a disabled former employee who brought a discrimination claim against the company.

The case, filed by Star Citizen senior programmer Paul Ah-Thion, revolves around a return-to-work policy that also involved work from the company's new central Manchester office location - some 15 miles from its previous Wilmslow location.

Ah-Thion, who previously worked in-office at Wilmslow, brought the case after his requests to work remotely rather than travel into central Manchester were denied and he was subsequently terminated, Game Developer reported.

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CIG had previously allowed Ah-Thion and other employees to work remotely for several years, but in 2022 decided to take a "tougher" stance on remote work.

The tribunal dismissed "rather retrospective" claims by CIG that Ah-Thion's performance had been a concern, and decided that allowing him to work from home would have been a "reasonable adjustment".

CIG's penalty of £27,748 includes more than £14k of lost earnings, and £12k compensation for injury to feelings.

"I've been fighting this by myself for two years, and being autistic made the whole process especially challenging," Ah-Thion told Game Developer. "But we're lucky to have the employment tribunal system, where an ordinary person can actually find justice without having to bankrupt themselves on legal fees.

"It was clear to me from the start that CIG didn't want people to work from home after the expense of their new Manchester office, and worked backwards from that to retroactively conjure up reasons why my request should be denied, something they continued to do right up until the final tribunal hearing - all while ignoring disability legislation. It was gratifying that the tribunal saw through them as easily as they did."

Eurogamer has contacted CIG for comment.

CIG has now raised more than $711m in funding for Star Citizen, its long-in-the-works space MMO. In 2022 it laid out ambitious plans for growth in the UK, including the opening of the aforementioned Manchester studio, with a plan to grow the company's then-400-person team to 1000 by 2026.

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