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Two former Niantic employees sue over sexual bias claims

UPDATE: Court rules class action lawsuit can go to trial.

Pokémon Go artwork showing the silhouettes of four player characters on the ground, next to a gym.
Image credit: Niantic

UPDATE 21/11/23: A US court has ruled that the proposed class-action lawsuit brought by two former Niantic employees can now proceed, after the Pokémon Go maker attempted to move the matter into individual arbitrations.

Niantic had sought to avoid the lawsuit, which alleges sexual bias in the workplace, going to trial.

"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," attorney Genie Harrison said on behalf of the women involved. "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."

Yesterday, a Niantic spokesperson told Eurogamer that it believed the court case did "not reflect how we operate as a company". We've contacted Niantic for further comment. [UPDATE: A company spokesperson told Eurogamer: "We disagree with the outcome of today's hearing, and are currently working on next steps."]

UPDATE 21/11/23: Pokémon Go maker Niantic has commented on the legal action launched by two ex-employees who claim the company exhibits sexual bias in the workplace.

In a statement issued to Eurogamer, Niantic distanced itself from the allegations and said they did "not reflect" how the company operated.

"Niantic is committed to maintaining a fair and welcoming workplace – one where we build games that bring people together in the real world," a Niantic spokesperson said. "While we take the allegations very seriously, they do not reflect how we operate as a company and we do not believe the action has merit."

ORIGINAL STORY 20/11/23: Two ex-Niantic employees are taking the Pokémon Go maker to court over claims of sexual bias in the workplace.

The lawsuit is set to be contested in Los Angeles tomorrow by Niantic, which is seeking to dismiss the case and move the matter into arbitration - something the company claims its former employees previously agreed to.

The legal dispute originally began in July, when a Niantic staff member left jobless by this summer's job cull at the company alleged that it had been a "boys club" and that she had been paid less than a male colleague despite being in a more senior job role.

The anonymous ex-employee also alleged that they had been told their pay was lower because they had raised concerns about sexual bias within the company.

A second anonymous employee joined the lawsuit in September, as the case grew into an attempted class-action suit that alleged Niantic "systemically devalued the work of female employees and especially women of colour, including plaintiffs".

In legal documents seen by Eurogamer, the pair claim Niantic management displayed a "blatant favouritism... to men" that "permeates the company" from its CEO John Hanke down - and that Niantic's executive board was filled with "FOJs" - Friends of John - who held much of the company's power.

Two months later, and the issue will now reach court tomorrow, in a hearing to decide whether the case will continue or be dismissed pending arbitration.

The plaintiffs argue that Niantic's own arbitration agreement excludes claims involving sexual bias, and that the matter should be heard in court.

Eurogamer has contacted Niantic for comment.

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Tom Phillips avatar

Tom Phillips


Tom is Eurogamer's Editor-in-Chief. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon. Tom joined Eurogamer in 2010 following a stint running a Nintendo fansite, and still owns two GameCubes. He also still plays Pokémon Go every day.