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GameStop worker sues over alleged labor law violation

The plaintiff is seeking class action status for the suit

The logo of video game retailer GameStop is seen at a shop in Duesseldorf, western Germany on January 19, 2022. It’s blurry. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
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.

A former GameStop worker is suing the video game retail company for allegedly violating New York Labor Law. The proposed class action suit was filed Wednesday in New York’s eastern district court by Trevon Mack, a GameStop retail worker employed from 2016 to 2020.

Mack and his lawyer said in the lawsuit that GameStop workers qualify as “manual laborers,” meaning that 25% of their job requires them to do manual labor, like organizing stockrooms, moving packages, and standing for a long shift. GameStop allegedly pays their workers every other week, but New York Labor Law Section 191 requires companies to pay workers classified as manual laborers every week. In not doing so, the suit alleged that GameStop is violating labor law in the state.

The state defines a manual worker as “a mechanic, workingman, or laborer,” which has been interpreted as a worker doing “physical labor” for more than 25% of their working day. New York’s Department of Labor includes “countless physical tasks performed by employees” as physical labor, according to an FAQ page on the government website. The broad nature of that definition seems to be what causes confusion among workplaces. Companies are able to skirt these rules if they’re large enough, but have to apply for that exemption.

The proposed class action suit could include “hundreds, if not thousands” of employees and former GameStop workers. Mack and his lawyer want the court to define GameStop workers as manual laborers — and then GameStop will have to pay.

Neither GameStop nor Mack’s lawyers have responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

These sorts of lawsuits are common in New York. This year alone, Cheesecake Factory, Wal-Mart, Party City, Apple, Urban Outfitters, and plenty others have been served over the same violations. Most of these cases are ongoing, though some have been dismissed.

Outside of court, GameStop itself has had a turbulent past few years — the company faced an existential crisis around 2020 as it started closing hundreds of stores amid a push toward digital-only sales. After a board refresh in 2021, the company saw an expected and chaotic boost by meme stock trading — also known as GameStonk — that dramatically increased GameStop’s stock price. Despite struggling in earnings, GameStop’s stocks continue to bounce around, reaching record highs as recent as last month, Kotaku reported.

In the past few years, GameStop workers have faced dire working conditions and extreme pressure from “desperate bosses.” GameStop workers alleged that the company failed to adequately protect its workers during the COVID-19 pandemic — including staying open when the store should have been closed with other non-essential businesses.

GameStop also reportedly owes $30 million to Boston-based consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, which filed a lawsuit against the retail company in March.