GWU Harassment and Discrimination Resource
In light of the recent and continual harassment of women in the gaming industry - both at the hands of colleagues and the larger gaming community - Game Workers Unite offers our support to any and all employees who have experienced or are currently experiencing sexual harassment, sex or gender discrimination, and intimidation. We know that speaking out is difficult, and can negatively impact the careers and wellbeing of individuals who choose to do so - we will always stand with those individuals and provide as much support as possible.
To help, we have assembled this resource to define sexual harassment and sex/gender discrimination, and to outline steps employees can take to try to resolve these problems and protect themselves.
We advise that in serious situations employees seek legal counsel since the circumstances and requirements of proving harassment and discrimination vary by country, region, state, etc. This is not legal advice, merely a general guide on how to approach situations of sexual harassment and sex/gender discrimination.
Any and all unwanted physical contact or sexual remarks are considered sexual harassment. Often, employees are not in a situation to immediately stop the physical contact or remark because of the power dynamic between the victim and harasser. This does not happen exclusively towards one gender; men, women, non binary folks, and others can all be the victim of harassment, and the harassers are not always men.
Examples of sexual harassment:
Comments on the physical appearance of an employee
Requests for sexual favors
Sexually explicit conversations
If the harassment occurs consistently, not only can it cause lasting mental damage, it interferes with an employee’s ability to work and feel safe, and that workplace can be considered a “hostile work environment.”
If you are in such an environment, take measures to keep yourself safe, and document your experiences.
Sex-Based Discrimination/Gender Discrimination
Employees cannot be discriminated against at work due to their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. If an employee can prove that they are being denied job growth or financial benefits due to their status as a member of these protected groups, that is considered discrimination.
Examples of discrimination:
An LGBT employee is given an inferior project to manage
A woman receives less pay than men for the same work
An employee is denied promotion due to sexual orientation
A woman’s colleague comments on the physical attractiveness of other women in the office, and suggests she dresses more like them
An employee is mistreated while they are transitioning
An employee is intentionally called the incorrect pronoun
A woman’s manager offers negative remarks about how “hysterical” or “emotional” women are during an employment review
An employee is denied additional education on their job because they are pregnant
Raising Concerns with Management/Human Resources
If you feel you are in a situation where you would like to share your experiences with management or Human Resources, you may do so, but know they are in a position to side with and protect the company over you as an employee. They may put the onus of change on you, asking that you be more accommodating, or even ask you to sit down with your harasser.
Documenting Your Experience
It is important to document your experience should things escalate to the point where you wish to take legal action. Writing down what happened during phone calls, archiving emails of said harassment, and taking screenshots of instances of hostility are all important in legally establishing the consistency and pervasiveness of the behavior.
If you go to management, document their response, and the timeline they’ve established to address your concerns. Again, if this should escalate, proving that you tried to reach out to management to solve things internally before going to an attorney makes it clear that you were doing your due diligence in trying to come to a resolution.
If you have reported your experience to a supervisor, spoken to HR, or have directly spoken to the harasser, and find yourself assigned to inferior projects or left out of meetings, you may be experiencing retaliation. Employees are legally protected from any intentionally negative impact on their role that occurs as a result of reporting harassment.
Examples of retaliation:
Frequent/intense criticism of an employee’s work
Failing to add an employee to a meeting
Decreased opportunities for overtime
Denial of promotion
Decreasing employee bonuses
Leaving an employee out of a work outing
Firing an employee
Seeking Legal Counsel
As a final step, reach out to attorneys near you to seek counsel. Look for attorneys who specialize in employment law or anti-discrimination cases. Many provide free consultations, making it easier to call several to review the details of your experience with them and find their opinion. Finally, it’s important to find out how much time you have available to take action, since different regions have different timelines on how long an employee has to file a legal complaint. In some locations, free legal clinics may be available, which can provide information about the applicable laws and advise you on how to proceed.
Where We Come In
Every day, workers are harassed across the globe. Harassed individuals can feel powerless, but unions have the ability to turn the separate voices of the victims into a collective power with the ability to make significant changes. Unions can provide collective anonymous representation, negotiate for workplace agreements with stronger protections against sexual harassment and abuse, and help the victims along every step of the way - Game Workers Unite wants to help fill that gap in the industry and give workers everywhere the ability to use their collective power to make a positive change in the workplace.
It is a mentally and physically draining experience to be harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against at work. Often, it can intensify feelings of imposter syndrome, a lack of belonging, depression, and anxiety. It can feel intensely isolating to be a member of a minority group in the games industry, and it takes courage to speak out and try to correct discrimination and harassment. Game Workers Unite is here for you. Please reach out to us and we’ll work to support you. Know that you are not alone.