Prominent staff at the gaming site IGN say they have walked out today in the wake of allegations late last week that a former editor sexually harassed two women at the company.
"There won't be a Daily Fix today because a large group of IGN employees have refused to work until the company issues a statement/apology regarding what happened to Kallie Plagge," IGN's Alanah Pearce wrote on Twitter today, referring to a former co-worker who on Saturday had accused the company's HR department of mistreating her. The Daily Fix is IGN's regular news show.
On Saturday afternoon, Plagge said on Twitter that while working in promotions at IGN last year, she and another female employee were sexually harassed by former editor Vince Ingenito.
In her tweet, and in an interview with Kotaku over the weekend, Plagge said that she saw Ingenito as a mentor but grew gradually uncomfortable when he made sexual remarks and "manipulative and abusive comments" toward her and one of her co-workers, whose name she did not want used without that woman's permission.
One example Plagge brought up on Twitter: "'When I was your age I could go all night.' He put his hand on my arm. 'I just want one more night like that.'"
Shortly afterward, Ingenito wrote a lengthy response on Twitter, saying that he "overestimated or perhaps misread the degree of our friendship" and "didn't graphically describe anything or force sexual conversations on her or anyone".
Despite widespread discussion of this incident on social media since Saturday afternoon, IGN has not publicly commented. The company did not respond to a Kotaku request for comment over the weekend and has not yet put out any statement.
What bothered Plagge the most, she said during a phone call, was what happened after she and her co-worker reported the incident to IGN's human resources department in July 2016. Plagge said that she and the other woman were told to sit and work in a glass conference room - "a fishbowl" - while IGN decided what to do.
Then, Plagge said, she was forced to sign a document saying that she had conducted herself inappropriately, without being told what she had done.
The document, which Plagge shared with Kotaku, stated: "With regards to the investigation of harassment, evidence was presented to show a lack of professionalism in your part as well as others. Communication between you and Vince were both inappropriate, unprofessional, and violated our harassment policy."
"That is the worst thing about this, is not the harassment, it's what happened after," Plagge said. "I deeply deeply regret [contacting HR]. It was just an absolutely traumatic experience for me."
Plagge said she felt anxious and uncomfortable at work in the following months, until she decided in December 2016 to leave for a new job at GameSpot. "It got to the point where I couldn't work for multiple hours a day because I was having panic attacks, so I decided to quit," she said.
In March 2017, Ingenito said that he was laid off from IGN.
Two IGN employees told me today that the editorial staff met this morning. During that meeting, employees fumed at management about both their treatment of Plagge and silence over this incident.
"We had a large staff meeting this morning and ultimately said we weren't going to work until the company issues a statement," said one IGN employee. "They said they will, and didn't think our protest was unreasonable."
IGN social editor Cassidee Moser also chimed in on Twitter. "Today has been a very somber and humbling day at IGN," she wrote. "Everyone is outraged and demanding changes be made to protect people going forward. I find the way her case was handled to be reprehensible. But after speaking to many in management and editorial today, I am encouraged."
UPDATE (1030 AEDT): IGN has out a statement from its editorial staff, noting up front that it was written by the website's content team and "not by management or legal or anyone else."
The full statement:
To the gaming and entertainment community:
It is with great sadness, pain, and regret that we tell you that IGN has failed two of its female employees, one former and one current - both of whom the team cares deeply about. We are devastated that two of our own have had to live with and carry this pain for more than a year.
When the women made management and human resources aware of the situation involving a now-former employee, those women, in the estimation of the IGN team, did not get the respect and care that they deserved as IGN employees and as people. That system, plainly put, failed them. It especially failed them but it also failed all of us.
All of us have been wounded deeply by this - though again, our suffering is nothing compared to those of our two beloved friends - and this morning we addressed the open wound directly with our management team and human resources representative in an emotional, difficult, but ultimately productive two-hour meeting, where any and all voices were heard.
We care deeply about what we do, and we hope our passion for video games and entertainment shines through in our articles, videos, and podcasts every day. But we care even more deeply about each other, and we will continue to fight to make this right for the past, present, and certainly the future.
Any future allegations will be taken extremely seriously, and we are actively working to ensure that everyone on our team feels like they work in a safe environment; we will not tolerate the exclusion or mistreatment of any people.
The human resources representative who oversaw this situation originally is no longer with the company, and our current HR rep has been transparent and willing to listen to ideas and suggestions for how to create a better work environment going forward.
We are aware of the influence that IGN has in the gaming and entertainment community, and we will utilise that to the best of our abilities going forward. And we will continue to challenge our management and human resources teams to fix what is broken, because if we can't or if we don't, then IGN will no longer be a place we're proud to call home - as content creators, entertainment consumers, and as gamers.
The IGN Team
UPDATE (1219 AEDT): And here’s an e-mail sent by IGN general manager and executive vice president Mitch Galbraith to staff today:
Much of the understanding and progress we made as a group today is summarized in this post from our Content team. It is clear IGN can and must do better delivering on our commitment to a safe and harassment-free work environment for employees.
I am taking the following steps to ensure we achieve our goals. First, I will enlist an independent expert to thoroughly examine how we handled the matter in question and, more broadly, all other important aspects of creating a healthy workplace. Second, I will turn the findings and recommendations of that review into specific actions that I will share with all of you. I will be accountable to you for delivering results. Third, I will work to give HR a stronger presence throughout IGN, including outside the San Francisco office.
I’m not going to reiterate IGN’s committment to a safe and harassment free work environment. Instead I am going to work with all of you to prove it with our actions and results from here on out.