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8 more women allege sexual harassment and discrimination at PlayStation maker Sony

Other workers describe systemic limits on women’s promotions, pornography in the workplace, and more

the PlayStation button icons flying across a blue background Photo: Samit Sarkar/Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Eight former and current Sony Interactive Entertainment employees have accused the PlayStation maker of sexism, according to court documents filed Tuesday. Axios first reported the filings.

Former security analyst Emma Majo filed a lawsuit against Sony for gender discrimination and wrongful termination in November 2021. Majo is seeking class-action status to include other employees impacted by sexism at the company. Sony filed to dismiss the complaint, citing a lack of specifics that prove “widespread intentional discrimination.”

On Tuesday, Majo’s lawyer filed statements of support from seven former PlayStation workers and one current employee. These women provided written statements of support detailing instances of sexism at the company and across multiple offices in the United States. The allegations described in these documents range from devaluing women’s ideas and discrimination toward mothers to sexual harassment and systemic struggles for women to get promoted.

Stephen Noel Ilg, Majo’s lawyer, said in an adjacent statement that several other women feared retaliation from Sony and “were too scared to speak up about what had occurred at the company.”

Marie Harrington, a former Sony Interactive senior director left Sony in 2019 due to “systemic sexism against females,” which she reported throughout her career and outlined in nine pages filed Tuesday. She pointed out instances where women were undervalued against men in “calibration sessions,” where leadership highlighted high performers at the company. In April 2019, Harrington said that 70 workers were being reviewed during a calibration session, and only four were women. She also flagged an instance when she reported a man’s bullying behavior to his manager: “Can we address this before PlayStation has its own national news article?”, she wrote in an email attached to the filing.

Harrington also said men at Sony would rank female employees by their “hotness” and pass around “filthy jokes and images of women.” She also described an instance where an engineer asked her not to wear skirts to work “because it was distracting him,” and alleged that male engineers went to strip clubs during lunch and shared porn. In another incident, Harrington says she requested a private lactation room after having twins in 2005. She was required to use a “storage room with a broken lock directly off the entrance lobby.” Harrington wrote that she stopped breastfeeding early “because it was not sustainable under those conditions.”

Other women provided similar examples in their statements. One former employee said she worked directly with four other woman in her five years at Sony in the San Mateo and San Francisco offices. All of those women ended up leaving the company “for similar reasons relating to sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and not being able to earn a promotion.” She described instances where men made comments about women not understanding technology, and another time where a senior manager attempted to “grab [her] breast” at an off-site work event. Another former employee described a similar incident at a work event with alcohol: “A male Senior Manager was getting inappropriately close to me. He hugged me and whispered in my ear. I left and went to the bathroom and told some female co-workers. Soon after that I transferred departments.”

Another former employee, Kara Johnson, who left in 2021, wrote a statement to leadership in Sony’s Women at PlayStation group (Women@PS) wherein she said at least 10 women left Sony’s Rancho Bernardo office in four months. “Though a certain amount of attrition after PS5 launch was expected, the disproportionate number of women leaving has alarmed leadership.”

One woman called out a third-party investigation at Sony that uncovered a “great imbalance in terms of employee distribution” on her team.

The alleged sexual harassment and sexism at Sony is not a problem unique to that company. In the past few years, the video game industry has been reckoning with pervasive sexism. Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, was ordered to pay $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit regarding gender discrimination at the company following a Kotaku report detailing widespread sexism. Activision Blizzard is facing multiple lawsuits regarding its alleged sexist culture, too. At Ubisoft, makers of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the company is facing a “great exodus” of workers due to low pay, better opportunities, and frustration with the company’s workplace misconduct allegations.

The reckoning is not limited to large studios, either: In 2021, Gone Home creator Steve Gaynor stepped down from his role as creative director on Open Roads after 10 women left during the game’s development due to his alleged behavior.

Polygon has reached out to Sony for comment. We’ll update this story should we hear back.

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