Stardock employee accused of deleting company files after she files sexual harassment suit

A former Stardock employee who is being sued by the developer for allegedly deleting the company's marketing files for Elemental: War of Magic filed a civil lawsuit against Stardock's CEO for sexual harassment, it was revealed through court documents today.

A former Stardock employee is being sued by the developer for allegedly deleting the company's marketing files for Elemental: War of Magic after she filed a civil lawsuit against Stardock's CEO for sexual harassment back in 2010, it was revealed through court documents obtained by Kotaku today.

Alexandra Miseta was a marketing manager at Stardock from June 4th, 2007 to August 3rd, 2010, when the company alleges she quit without notice and wiped important marketing data from her computer, which Stardock believes played a role in Elemental: War of Magic's poor performance at retail. Last month, the company began legal proceedings against Miseta, claiming that her actions cost Stardock to lose $1 million in profits.

Court documents emerged today showing that Miseta had brought a civil lawsuit against Stardock CEO Brad Wardell for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in 2010, and Miseta's attorney believes that Stardock's lawsuit against her is an act of retaliation.

Miseta claims that some of Wardell's inappropriate behavior included touching her body parts without consent

"It is our opinion that Mr. Wardell's lawsuit against Ms. Miseta for allegedly deleting files, etc., is baseless and was brought solely in retaliation for her sexual harassment lawsuit," Miseta's attorney said in a statement to Kotaku. "We firmly believe that Ms. Miseta's leaving Stardock had absolutely nothing to do with any failures pertaining to Stardock's release of Elemental. It is our further belief that Mr. Wardell has publicly admitted that the failures of Elemental were due solely to his actions and/or/ inactions."

Under Miseta's civil lawsuit against Brad Wardell, she is seeking $25,000 in damages for sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. The filing alleges that Miseta's entire employment experience with Stardock "was marred, stained and spoiled by the fact that she was subjected to repeated and near-daily comments, innuendos, advances, and other offensive conduct of a sexual nature" by Wardell, which were "demeaning, insulting, and created a burdensome and oppressive condition of employment". She also claims that while she was an employee of Stardock she was subjected to "unwelcome sexual advances, sexual comments, physical touching, and other conduct of a sexual nature" by Wardell.

Miseta claims that some of Wardell's inappropriate behavior included touching her body parts without consent, running his hands through her hair without consent, asking her if she read pornographic books or magazines, asking her if she had seen a pornographic movie, telling Miseta that she should go on a media tour with him "because your nipples look better on camera than mine do", coming to her hotel room (which she was sharing with another female employee) on a business trip and sitting on her bed only in his pajamas and proceeding to work on his laptop, and asking if she had sexual intercourse with a virgin.

Miseta's claim cites more than 49 alleged instances of Wardell asking personal questions or making comments of a sexual nature

In addition to these actions, Miseta claims that Wardell spoke in negative and critical terms about her private life and her boyfriend, made comments about the size of the breasts of other female Stardock employees, asked her if she engaged in cunnilingus and fellatio, and telling her that one of the reasons she was hired was because she was "hot".

Miseta's claim cites more than 49 alleged instances of Wardell asking personal questions or making comments of a sexual nature. The lawsuit claims that throughout the course of her employment she "regularly complained and objected to [Wardell] about his above-stated actions, further telling [him] that his actions were sexually humiliating, degrading, offensive, and harassing, and requesting that he discontinue such behavior."

According to the filing, Wardell responded by: "Rather than making any attempt whatsoever to remedy his deplorable behavior, [Wardel] would routinely tell [Miseta] that it was his company and that he could run it however he wanted."

On June 6th, after attending a media tour with Wardell, Miseta sent an email to Wardell asking him to change his behavior after he allegedly stroked her hair during dinner while on the media tour.

Her requests included: "Please never touch my hair or any of my body parts; not even jokingly; Please do not talk about my private life or about my boyfriend/future husband in any terms especially negative terms; Please be careful with your ‘jokes' which are at many times inappropriate, sexist, vulgar and very embarrassing not only to me, but everyone present; Please keep your negative personal opinions of others ... not present at the time of your comments to yourself. I feel, at times, it puts me in a very uncomfortable position."

Miseta added:

"With the above few behavioral changes, I'm hoping our previously friendly and professional relationship can be reestablished. My goal from day one (June 04, 2007) has been to work for this company 110% and to work together with my peers to build a high quality, successful company. I would like to continue to work with you in the future and keep striving towards that very goal."

In response to Miseta's email, Wardell replied saying that he did not recall touching her and would be more conscious of not talking about her private life in the future. However, he declined to cooperate on the other issues she raised.

He wrote:

"#3, however is not acceptable to me. I am an inappropriate, sexist, vulgar, and embarrassing person and I'm not inclined to change my behavior. If this is a problem, you will need to find another job.

#4, Again, I am not willing to adapt my behavior to suit others. IF you find my behavior problematic, I recommend finding another job."

He added: "I won't change my basic personality to suit anyone (i.e. being an inappropriate, sexist, vulgar and embarrassing person."

Miseta left Stardock shortly after and filed the civil lawsuit against Wardell. The process of discovery (the process in which depositions are taken and documents are exchanged) took approximately 16 months. After discover, Wardell filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the allegations laid forth in Miseta's lawsuit were untrue. Miseta's attorneys then filed a response to the motion to dismiss. It took until July of this year for Judge Robert Ziolkowski to hear the oral arguments and then deny the motion to dismiss, which means that the case of Miseta vs. Wardell will go to trial, although a trial date has not been set.

Three weeks after the judge's dismissal of the motion to dismiss, Stardock filed its claim against Miseta.

Stardock released an official statement published on Joystiq denying Miseta's allegations, asserting that her actions when she left the company were "malicious" and contributed to loss of profits.

"There is no excuse for her malicious behavior when she quit without notice and used her privileged access to destroy valuable company intellectual property which contributed to the loss of millions of dollars and affected the livelihoods of Stardock employees," the statement read. "It is without question that Alexandra Miseta's intent to harm the company included her actions of stealing company property, destroying company material and rendering remaining materials unusable.

"There is no excuse for her malicious behavior when she quit without notice and used her privileged access to destroy valuable company intellectual property"

Wardell responded to the allegations on a forum, saying that Stardock is a "relaxed software company" that tells lots of jokes and he had apologized to Miseta for hurting her feelings.

"Now you can argue that I was a jerk in how I responded to her," he wrote. "But it does not justify her getting pissed off, quitting without notice, and using her network access to wipe out our marketing assets 3 weeks before the ship of the game forcing me and a few other key team members to scramble at the last second to deal with it."

Both cases are currently making their way through the court system and we will provide updates when more information becomes available.

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