In October 2018—10 days before video game studio Gearbox Software sued its former general counsel over allegations of fraud—the counsel in question filed a discrimination claim with Texas authorities.
On Monday, Ars obtained the formal October 27, 2018 filing made by former Gearbox general counsel Wade Callender. Its existence suggests that Gearbox’s November lawsuit could be retaliation for his claim with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division. It alleges that Gearbox (and CEO Randy Pitchford in particular) engaged in “harassment, discipline, inequitable terms and conditions, and discharge” due to an employee being Christian.
Callender’s claim matches a timeline he outlined in his December countersuit against Gearbox: that Callender did not depart the company as a voluntary “resignation.” Instead, Callender alleges he was forced out after Pitchford began crafting a “false narrative about Callender’s employment.” His December lawsuit has roiled the video game industry in part because it included sensational allegations. One of those—about a lost, unencrypted USB stick full of industry secrets and pornography left behind at a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament—was confirmed (in part) by Pitchford himself.
The complete text of Callender’s October statement includes details not found in either lawsuit:
During my employment with the Respondent [Gearbox Software], I have been subjected to unfair standards and expectations based on my religion. Mr. Randy Pitchford (President & CEO) would constantly harass me based on my religious beliefs. Mr. Pitchford would state that my religious beliefs were retarded and indicative of a broken brain. Mr. Pitchford would often visit my office with gifts ridiculing Christianity.
I reported the harassing and hostile work environment that was created by Mr. Pitchford to the Human Relations Department, but no disciplinary or corrective actions were taken. After reporting the harassment to the HR department, it appears that Mr. Pitchford’s harassment became more severe.
After I notified the Respondent that I could no longer tolerate the persistent hostile work environment and wanted to commence with my exit-negotiations, Mr. Pitchford immediately notified other employees that he was accepting my resignation, which was non-existent. I was immediately restricted from my Gearbox email account, personnel, resources, and access to the building. I believe I was retaliated against and terminated from my position based on my religion (Christian).
The claim notes a start date for the alleged discrimination of June 2010, the same month Callender began working at Gearbox, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Neither Callender nor his current legal counsel immediately responded to Ars’ questions about alleged ridicule and gifts or about records of either Pitchford’s statements or Callender’s HR reports.
[Update, 6:25pm ET: After our report went live, Gearbox offered a statement to Ars Technica, describing Callender as a “disgruntled former employee who voluntarily resigned and is now trying to extort money out of Gearbox” and calling his most recent allegations “absurd” and without “merit.” The statement cites a Gearbox company policy to “provide equal opportunity for employment,” which it points out is part of a company handbook that “Callender received and reviewed while acting as General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Affairs for Gearbox.” The statement goes on to describe benefits afforded to Callender while employed at Gearbox while “knowing his religious beliefs,” including promotions, the purchase of a Porsche, the “full funding” of his college experience, a $300,000 home loan, and “Callender’s request for Randy and his wife to act as godparents” to his children.
“Mr. Callender is attempting to improperly influence the administrative process at the EEOC/TWC, and we will not be a party to that,” the statement reads. “Out of respect for that process and the legal process as a whole, we will strive to refrain from further comment, and look forward to addressing this meritless claim in Court.”]
Ten days after this complaint was filed, Gearbox filed a lawsuit against Callender, alleging that he had “exploit[ed] Gearbox’s generosity and trust for his own personal gain.” Gearbox’s lawsuit specifically alleges that Callender did not fully repay a $300,000 loan issued by Pitchford in 2015 and that he used Gearbox’s corporate credit cards for personal use before departing the company in July 2018.
The following month, Callender responded with a countersuit of its own, alleging that Pitchford had pocketed a $12 million bonus from video game publisher Take-Two Interactive. According to Callender, Pitchford then syphoned that amount of money directly to his own privately held company, Pitchford Entertainment Media & Magic, LLC, and did so “unbeknownst to Gearbox employees,” thus placing a “financial burden” on those employees. Both sides seek damages exceeding $1 million in their respective suits.
A Take-Two representative declined to comment on the alleged $12 million bonus paid directly to a Pitchford-owned LLC, telling Ars, “It is our practice not to comment on our business partners’ legal matters.”
Callender’s August claim clarifies one detail that was otherwise lost in the legal back-and-forth found in two civil court filings from November and December 2018. Callender’s filing in Dallas County District Court included the following allegation:
Outside of the workplace, Pitchford began to shun Callender from various events and opportunities while using his Twitter handle (“DuvalMagic”) to publicly showcase a false image of love and tolerance. Behind Gearbox’s closed doors, however, Pitchford wielded vile bigotry against Callender and charitable causes about which Callender cared.
Pitchford’s public statements about religion are few and far between. In April 2017, Pitchford replied to a picture of a hotel Gideon Bible on Twitter, saying, “It’s fun to just toss it out into the hall with a towel or something—like what you do with the dirty room-service dishes.” Two years before that, he used Twitter to alert a colleague about their appearance on Reddit’s “atheism” sub-site, but that vague, confusing tweet may be a joking reference to another thread that has since been deleted. (That 2015 tweet tags an artist who has poked fun at atheists, so the tweet may not be indicative of Pitchford’s religious views.)
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