A California judge ruled that a class-action sexual bias lawsuit against Niantic could proceed, blocking the Pokémon Go creator’s attempt to move the suit into arbitration.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle found that allegations raised by two female former employees regarding exposure to a hostile gender-based work environment were protected under the 2021 Ending Forced Arbitration Act.
Attorney Genie Harrison described the outcome as a “watershed moment for sexual harassment and gender bias cases.”
“The ruling is a watershed moment for sexual harassment and gender bias cases, because it clarifies that the protections of the 2021 Ending Forced Arbitration Act do indeed encompass cases in which sexual overtures are not the focus,” said attorney Genie Harrison in a press release.
The lawsuit was first filed in July by an anonymous female employee who accused Niantic of creating a “boys club,” and alleged that the company denied equal pay to women employees and women of color and devalued their work. An amended complaint was then filed in September by a second former employee who said sexism had impeded her career advancement at Niantic, and that a group of female employees were banned from using the term “boys club” to describe the company.
Earlier this week, Eurogamer reported that Niantic was planning to contest the sexual bias lawsuit, calling for courts to dismiss it and instead move into arbitration. This may have been beneficial for Niantic as arbitration systems tend to favor employers over their employees.
“Niantic is committed to maintaining a fair and welcoming workplace – one where we build games that bring people together in the real world,” said a Niantic spokesperson in a statement to Eurogamer. “While we take the allegations very seriously, they do not reflect how we operate as a company and we do not believe the action has merit.”
With the efforts to move to arbitration now blocked, the plaintiffs plan to move forward with their suit against the AR app company. We have reached out to Niantic for an updated statement and will update this story if we hear back.