A former Niantic employee filed a lawsuit against the AR gaming company on Friday, alleging that it devalued the work of female employees and women of color, denied equal pay to women employees and women of color. The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, accuses Niantic of creating a “boys club.” The employee was laid off as part of last week’s job cuts at the company, which affected about 230 staffers.
The employee, who is an anonymous Jane Doe but is described in the complaint as an Asian female, started work at Niantic in February 2020 with a salary of $70,000, the complaint says. Later that year, she was promoted and received a raise to about $84,000, but in “approximately” 2021, she learned that Niantic was paying a male colleague more money even though she had a higher job title and more responsibilities than he did.
In 2022, he was allegedly paid $127,000 per year, but she was paid $105,000 per year despite being one job level higher. In or around spring 2023, she received a raise to $115,000 per year, still below her male colleague.
Around that same time, the employee also saw that Niantic posted the pay range for her job title and level — as of 2023, California employers with more than 15 staffers have to share pay ranges in job listings because of a pay transparency law — and saw that she was being paid more than $10,000 less than the bottom end of that range.
The employee discussed her concerns with other female staffers, and sexism and equal pay were brought up in the company’s employee resources group for women, Wolfpack.
But when the employee brought her concerns to Niantic’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director and Principal People Partner, they “made clear” that “they and male upper management at Niantic were hostile to her complaints or voiced concerns about sexism or sexual bias in the workplace,” the complaint says.
The executives in the meeting also allegedly said her job evaluations were affected by her discussing workplace issues with her colleagues and said that she was paid below the range because she had raised concerns with her colleagues. According to the complaint, the employee then “immediately unsubscribed” from the Wolfpack group “in fear that her association with Wolfpack would disadvantage Wolfpack employees or her.”
This year, Wolfpack found in a survey of staffers that “many female employees viewed Niantic as a sexist work culture that disadvantages female employees” and a majority of respondents “expressed concerns about equal pay at Niantic,” the complaint says. When those survey findings where shared with upper management, “Niantic’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Quigley, required Wolfpack to remove references to Boys Club and similar comments about sexism in the workplace from their presentation to Wolfpack members about the results of the survey.” The group was also told that they could not survey staffers without approval from upper management.
Niantic didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
The lawsuit against Niantic is just the latest legal action toward a major gaming company based on allegations from female employees. The state of California sued Activision Blizzard in 2021 alleging that it fostered a culture of “constant sexual harassment,” while Riot Games announced that year that it would pay $100 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit.
As part of its recent layoffs, CEO John Hanke reiterated the company’s focus on Pokémon Go, its cash cow. The company has struggled to find its next big hit, shutting down games based on Harry Potter, Catan, and, as of last week, its NBA game.