Mar 9, 2022 - Technology

Eight more women allege sexism at PlayStation, intensifying lawsuit

Photo illustration of a phone with a PlayStation logo resting on a keyboard
Photo Illustration by Nikolas Joao Kokovlis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Eight more women, former and current employees at Sony PlayStation, have added their accounts of sexist treatment to a proposed class-action lawsuit against the gaming giant.

Why it matters: The new declarations add to former IT security analyst Emma Majo’s assertion that PlayStation, like many other game companies, has long had a workplace culture that is hostile to women.

  • Majo filed a gender discrimination suit against PlayStation last November, not just for what she says is her own wrongful termination after complaining about sexism, but on behalf of all women who’ve worked for the company.

Sony denied Majo’s claims last month, asking a court to toss the lawsuit over the lack of specific facts.

  • Majo "fails to identify a single policy, practice or procedure at [PlayStation] that allegedly formed the basis of any widespread intentional discrimination or had a discriminatory impact on women,” Sony’s lawyers wrote at the time.
  • In response, Majo’s attorney yesterday filed statements from the eight women, including a current PlayStation employee.

The details: The women describe a range of behaviors across multiple U.S.-based PlayStation offices, including demeaning comments, unwelcome advances, a lack of attention paid to their work or ideas and, most frequently, a sense that it was harder for women to be promoted in the company.

  • Marie Harrington, a veteran of Sony Online Entertainment and Sony PlayStation for more than 16 years, cited a lack of women considered for senior roles during “calibration sessions.” During one session, she said, only four women were considered for promotions, compared to nearly 70 men. She described hearing comments about female candidates’ family lives that weren’t made about male candidates.
  • In a 2018 email to superiors regarding bullying by men at the company, Harrington linked to a New York Times article about women revolting against toxic males at Nike, asking, “Can we address this before PlayStation has its own national news article?”
  • Another woman cited a third-party study that found a “great imbalance in terms of employee distribution” in her team.

“I believe Sony is not equipped to appropriately handle toxic environments,” wrote Kara Johnson, a former program manager, in her statement.

  • She noted she was aware of 10 women who’d left her office in Rancho Bernardo, California, in the four months preceding her departure, a sign to her of systemic problems.
  • Her declaration includes a letter she shared with female employees when she left the company in January 2021, citing repeated attempts to notify superiors about gender bias, alleged discrimination against pregnant women and resistance from a senior man in HR to act on these accounts.

Sony did not reply to a request for comment about the new assertions by press time.

What’s next: Yesterday’s filing met a deadline for replies to Sony’s attempt to drop the suit.

  • A hearing on that request won’t happen until next month, at the earliest.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to state that Johnson left Sony PlayStation in January 2021 (not in January 2022).

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