PlayStation Sexism Claims Grow As Sony Seeks Lawsuit Dismissal

As Sony moves to drop the gender discrimination lawsuit filed against PlayStation by former IT security analyst Emma Majo, eight more women have joined with their own allegations of sexism they experienced while working for the gaming industry giant. According to Axios, Majo originally filed the lawsuit in November 2021. However, her attorney filed statements from eight other women, comprised of former and current employees, detailing disturbing accounts of workplace misconduct that took place in multiple PlayStation offices across the country, including unwanted sexual advances, demeaning comments, a lack of attention paid to their work or ideas, and systemic difficulties getting promoted — the latter of which happened more frequently. 

Majo filed the gender discrimination lawsuit against PlayStation in November for what she said was her own wrongful termination after complaining about sexism in the workplace. But she didn't do so for that reason alone, she did it on behalf of all the women who have worked at the company. Last month, Sony requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit citing a lack of specific facts to Majo's claims. Lawyers representing Sony wrote that 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."

The women's sexism claims towards PlayStation

Marie Harrington, a former Sony Interactive senior director who left the company in 2019 due to "systemic sexism against females," reported in a nine-page report outlining her career that female candidates were frequently undervalued in comparison to male ones during "calibration sessions." Harrington pointed out that during one such session in April 2019, only four out of 70 employees being considered for promotion to senior roles were women. 

She attached to her filing a 2018 email she sent to higher-ups reporting bullying by a man asking, "Can we address this before PlayStation has its own national headline?" citing a New York Times article about women protesting gender discrimination at Nike. According to Polygon, she also alleged that men at Sony would rank female employees based on their "hotness," police clothing they deem distracting, shared porn during lunch, and required her to use "a storage room with a broken lock directly off the entrance lobby" instead of a private lactation room she requested after having twins in 2005.

Kara Johnson, a former program manager who left in 2021, said that 10 women left Sony's Rancho Bernardo, California office within four months prior to her departure. Her filing included a letter she shared with female employees citing repeated attempts to notify superiors about gender bias as well as a senior man in HR failing to intervene on those incidents. "I don't think Sony is equipped to appropriately handle toxic environments," she said in her statement.

Another gaming company reckoning with systemic sexism

Sony's gender discrimination lawsuit and subsequent claims from eight women corroborating Majo's are disturbing but not unique. PlayStation just happens to be another company facing a reckoning on pervasive, systemic sexism within the video game industry in the last few years. Its legal troubles come on the heels of another infamous sexual harassment scandal at Activision Blizzard. 

Activision Blizzard has been facing a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July 2021 over allegations of the publisher's "frat boy culture" of sexual misconduct and harassment towards women, prompting several outlets to ban coverage of upcoming Activision Blizzard games upon the discovery that a female employee died of suicide as a result. 

Since the lawsuit was filed, J. Allen Brack stepped down as president of Blizzard. Wall Street Journal article claiming CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the sexual harassment within the company for years, even participated in some of it himself, but swept them under the rug prompted employees to call for his resignation. However, he won't leave until Microsoft's acquisition of the publisher is finalized in the next fiscal year.