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Former BioWare employees suing for ‘adequate severance’

‘We are struggling to understand why BioWare is shortchanging us’

The logo for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts
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.

Former Dragon Age: Dreadwolf developers from BioWare are suing the company for “better severance,” according to a statement released by a group of seven ex-employees. Former BioWare technical director Jon Renish published the statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

R. Alex Kennedy, a lawyer representing the group of employees, told Polygon that “many more” people tried to negotiate with BioWare, but ultimately had to take the original offer for other reasons.

“For most of my clients, they had to consider their short-term needs and take BioWare’s low offer,” Kennedy said. “They didn’t have the time and energy to sue, and I completely understand and sympathise with them. But it is a shame that the fear generated by BioWare’s position should prevent people from being able to pursue their legal rights.”

BioWare general manager Gary McKay announced 50 job cuts at the studio in August in what he called a move toward a “more agile and more focused studio.” McKay said at the time that its layoff process would be “handled with empathy, respect, and clear communication.” But former employees say the company hasn’t provided “adequate severance” for its former workers, many of whom have been with the company for years. The seven former employees suing the company range from having put in six years to 23 years with BioWare, Kennedy said.

“While we remain supportive of the game we worked so hard on, and of our colleagues continuing that work, we are struggling to understand why BioWare is shortchanging us in this challenging time,” one former worker said in a statement.

Alberta courts have recently awarded laid-off employees “at least one month of severance pay per year of service, with the full value of all benefits included,” the workers said — much more than what BioWare reportedly offered. Though some laid-off workers attempted to negotiate, BioWare refused to budge. The seven employees filed a lawsuit with Alberta, Canada’s Court of King’s Bench to get their “fair severance pay” and damages for “unreasonably poor treatment by BioWare.”

Kennedy, the former BioWare workers’ lawyer, said that BioWare may have included an “illegal provision” in contracts — specifically, ones that keep benefits out of its severance pay, he said. “These people are artists and creators who have worked very hard and for a very long time in a difficult industry, producing big profits for their employer,” Kennedy said. “Their termination without cause en masse like this calls for a response.” He explained to Polygon that his clients should get “common-law notice” or severance based off other court decisions. “The actual amount is a very complex matter, but for my clients I think they would be entitled to at least around 1 1/2 months of ‘notice’ per year that they served at BioWare,” he said.

During these layoffs, BioWare — which is owned by EA — also cut ties with Keywords Studio, which was providing QA and playtesting for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf. An Electronic Arts representative said it could not reach an agreement for a new contract with the company. In June 2022, BioWare contractors at Keywords Studios’ Edmonton, Canada location voted yes to unionize.

BioWare has not yet responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

Update: This story has been edited to include comments from R. Alex Kennedy, a lawyer representing the seven laid-off BioWare workers.

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