High on Life topped the charts on Game Pass. Image: Squanch Games
A former employee sued Justin Roiland’s Squanch Games, creator of recent Xbox Game Pass hit High On Life, in 2018 for alleged sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination. According to court documents, the studio denied the claims but later settled, and the lawsuit, while long-running, raises questions about the work culture at Squanch Games, especially after co-founder Roiland s was recently revealed to be facing domestic violence charges from 2020.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2018 on behalf of former Squanch Games designer Sarah Doukakos and alleges she was sexually harassed and belittled by then-technical director Jeff Dixon. He further alleges that despite numerous complaints to his managers, including co-founder and then chief executive, Tanya Watson, the behavior was never addressed. Instead, the lawsuit claims Doukakos was fired for poor performance and then pressured by Watson to sign a liability waiver as part of her severance package.
Doukakos and Watson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Dixon referred Kotaku to Squanch Games for comment.
“Squanch Games is committed to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment for our team,” a Squanch Games spokesperson told Kotaku in an emailed statement. “We do not publicly disclose personnel matters, and we maintain the decision we made in 2017, not to disclose confidential information related to this matter.”
If you are a current or former employee of Squanch Games and would like to chat, recorded or unrecorded, my inbox is always open at firstname.lastname@example.org (Signal and Proton on request).
According to the lawsuit, Dixon allegedly forced Doukakos to give unwanted hugs, questioned her intelligence and competence, and once told her that a t-shirt she wore saying ‘The future is female’ made him sad. . The lawsuit also says Doukakos informed his managers of the issues, even going so far as to ask one of them, Erich Meyr, currently Squanch Games’ design director, to pitch his game development ideas to Dixon. instead so that they are taken seriously.
The lawsuit also alleges another manager, Anthony Bosco, told Watson about the issues but she just “sighed” in response. Things would not have improved when Doukakos spoke directly to Watson. The lawsuit reads as follows:
On August 11, 2017, the plaintiff spoke to Watson and expressed her issues with Mr. Dixon, including the unwanted touching and how Dixon would treat the plaintiff differently because she was a woman. In response, Watson told the claimant, “that’s how this generation of guys are” and asked the claimant to sit quietly, take notes, and smile whenever the men, including Dixon, were talking. The plaintiff explicitly told Watson that the plaintiff should not have to act any differently as a woman to be heard.
Meyr and Bosco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
2019’s Trover Saves the Universe was Squanch Games’ third release and featured Justin Roiland’s voice acting. Picture: Squanch Games
The lawsuit goes on to allege that, despite receiving positive performance feedback from her managers (including Watson) in August, she was put on a performance improvement plan the following month. During an ensuing “crisis” period, the lawsuit says she worked 12-hour days while pushing back on some made-for-game content that allegedly included rape-like scenes and woman-disparaging remarks. While the lawsuit doesn’t specify what the project was, a former employee told Kotaku that the project in question was Squanch Games’ 2019 action platformer Trover Saves the Universe.
Doukakos was eventually fired on November 1 for performance issues, but the lawsuit alleges it was actually retaliation for her complaints. He even claims that Watson pressured Doukakos to sign a release of all claims against the studio in order to receive his final paycheck and severance package. While Squanch Games’ court documents in the case deny all allegations against him, the two sides eventually settled in September 2019. It’s unclear what the terms of that settlement were. Dixon left the studio shortly after Doukakos was fired and Watson left in February 2021.
Although Roiland is not mentioned at all in the lawsuit, he has been CEO of Squanch Games since he co-founded the studio with Watson in 2016. Yesterday, as first reported by NBC News, it was revealed that Roiland was facing two felony domestic violence charges as of January 2020, one for domestic battery and another for forcible confinement. He has pleaded not guilty to both, but there is currently no trial date.
Meanwhile, High on Life, Squanch Games’ latest release, would have been Xbox Game Pass’s biggest launch of 2022. Like the hit animated show Roiland co-created, Rick and Morty, the game split its crude humor and extended antics, which some loved but others found. incredibly creaky.
Article source https://kotaku.com/high-life-justin-roiland-squanch-sexual-harassment-xbox-1849986831