A former employee of Niantic, the AR gaming company known for Pokémon Go, has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging gender discrimination and unequal pay. The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, claims that Niantic devalued the work of female employees and women of color, creating a hostile work environment.
The employee, referred to as Jane Doe in the complaint, joined Niantic in February 2020 with a salary of $70,000. She was later promoted and received a raise, but discovered that a male colleague with a lower job title and fewer responsibilities was earning more than her. In 2022, the male colleague was reportedly earning $127,000 per year, while Jane Doe was making $105,000 per year, despite her higher job level. Even after receiving a raise to $115,000 per year, she was still being paid less than her male counterpart.
Furthermore, Jane Doe noticed that Niantic had posted the pay range for her job title and level, revealing that she was being paid over $10,000 less than the minimum of that range. She discussed her concerns with other female colleagues and raised the issue of sexism and unequal pay in the company’s employee resources group for women, known as Wolfpack.
However, when she brought her concerns to Niantic’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director and Principal People Partner, they dismissed her complaints and showed hostility towards her. They claimed that her job evaluations were influenced by her discussions about workplace issues and that she was being paid below the range because of her involvement in raising concerns. As a result, Jane Doe felt compelled to leave the Wolfpack group, fearing that her association with it would have negative consequences for her and her colleagues.
A survey conducted by Wolfpack revealed that many female employees viewed Niantic as a sexist work culture that disadvantaged women. Concerns about equal pay were also expressed by a majority of respondents. However, when the survey findings were shared with upper management, Niantic’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Quigley, ordered the removal of references to a “Boys Club” and similar comments about sexism in the workplace. The group was also informed that they would require approval from upper management to conduct future surveys.
This lawsuit against Niantic is part of a growing trend of legal action against major gaming companies based on allegations from female employees. In 2021, the state of California sued Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of fostering a culture of constant sexual harassment. Riot Games also settled a gender discrimination lawsuit by agreeing to pay $100 million.
Niantic, which recently laid off approximately 230 employees, is focused on its flagship game Pokémon Go. The company has faced challenges in finding its next successful title, discontinuing games based on Harry Potter, Catan, and its NBA game.
In response to the lawsuit, Niantic has not yet provided a comment. The outcome of this case will shed light on the prevalence of gender discrimination and unequal pay within the gaming industry, and potentially lead to changes in company policies and practices.