Two former members of Lab Zero’s board of directors are suing the studio behind the “Skullgirls” and “Indivisible” games, alleging they were wrongfully fired from the board by the lead designer in retaliation for standing up against his sexual harassment of employees.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought Thursday by Mariel Cartwright and Francesca Esquenazi also alleges that Mike Zaimont made an insensitive comment after George Floyd’s death that “sparked an Internet outcry” and embarrassed other Lab Zero workers.
“This case is about retaliation by Lab Zero and its sole shareholder, Mike Zaimont, against two long-term employees who had the temerity to stand up against Mr. Zaimont’s rampant sexual harassment of Lab Zero employees,” the suit states.
Neither Zaimont nor a representative for Lab Zero could be immediately reached for comment.
Although the suit’s allegations focus on the alleged misconduct of Zaimont, Lab Zero’s lone shareholder, it does not name him as a defendant.
Throughout their Lab Zero employment, Zaimont subjected plaintiffs to a “pervasive campaign of sexual harassment,” including frequent unwanted touching, discussion about the size of his private parts, his sex life and his libido, the suit states.
He also made unwelcome comments about the bodies and dress of the two women, according to the suit.
Zaimont admitted his conduct was inappropriate, but complained that “now I have to seriously consider whether the company needs to undergo sexual harassment seminars and have a dress code and an office code of conduct and that sucks, I don’t want to become one of those places,” the suit states.
Zaimont said in jest that he was Lab Zero’s human resources department and that he could fire employees who challenged him, the suit states.
Last June, not long after the May 25 death of Floyd in Minneapolis, Zaimont participated in a live-streamed gaming event as a representative of Lab Zero in which, while commenting on the match while a player was “killing” another game, jokingly said, “I can’t breathe,” according to the suit.
The comment “sparked an Internet outcry” and “deeply embarrassed many on Lab Zero’s team, who viewed them, as did much of the Internet, as making light of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement,” according to the suit.
Although Zaimont apologized, the incident caused employees of Lab Zero and others in the gaming community to break their silence about harassment they allegedly experienced at his hands, both publicly and privately, the suit states.
The plaintiffs spoke with Zaimont about his behavior last July and worked to reach an agreement in which Zaimont would leave the company and disburse the equity he had previously promised, the suit states.
However, he later told Cartwright and others that the advice he had gotten from every single person with a business or legal background “is that I can do anything I want, and I should keep that power because it’s what everyone wants,” the suit states.
Zaimont fired Cartwright, who had a background as a game animator, and Esquenazi, a longtime producer, from the board of directors last August, the suit states.