The Sony-owned game studio behind the “Uncharted” series is facing allegations that it fired an employee the day after he complained of being sexually harassed.
David Ballard, a former environmental artist at Naughty Dog, said on Twitter over the weekend that he was sexually harassed by a manager at the Sony studio near the end of 2015. When he told Sony’s human resources representatives about the harassment he experienced several months later, they ended the call, he was fired the next day, and he’s been unemployed ever since, he said.
“When interviewers ask why I left Naughty Dog, I say I was burned out by the crunch, ashamed to get to the root of the problem of being sexually harassed,” he said on Twitter. “I’m speaking out now because of the strength I’ve seen in others coming forward about their experiences in the TV-Film industry.”
He continued: “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I will not let anyone kill my drive or love for the video game industry, my passions, or life.”
In a joint statement, Sony and Naughty Dog said they hadn’t “found any evidence” that they had received a complaint about sexual harassment from Ballard and said that they take such complaints seriously.
“We value every single person who works at Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment,” the companies said in the statement. “It is of utmost importance to us that we maintain a safe, productive workplace environment that allows us all to channel our shared passion for making games.”
Based on Ballard’s statements on Twitter, his harassment complaint may not have a paper trail for Sony to find. He said he discussed the harassment on a phone call in February 2016 with Sony’s HR department, not that he filed an official complaint. That phone call was prompted by Ballard suffering a “mental breakdown” on the job, he said.
When Sony fired him, company officials told him the company was “moving in another direction” and no longer needed his services, he said.
“They tried to silence me by offering $US20,000 if I signed a letter agreeing to the termination as well as to not discuss it with anyone,” Ballard said. “I declined to sign.”
Ballard, who did not name the person who allegedly harassed him, worked at Naughty Dog for nearly seven years in two separate stints, according to his LinkedIn profile. His most recent stint was from May 2015 to March 2016, which corresponds with when he said he was fired. He hasn’t spoken publicly since making his story public on Saturday.
His statement comes as the entertainment industry is still roiling from allegations of sexual harassment and rape made against film mogul Harvey Weinstein. The women who have come forward with their accusations against Weinstein have spurred others in the industry to make public their own stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Last week, for example, actor Terry Crews said he had been sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive last year.
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