A former Telltale Games employee has filed a class-action lawsuit against the studio, alleging that it violated state and federal labor laws. Vernie Roberts, who submitted the suit, was among the roughly 250 - or more - employees laid off by Telltale last Friday.
The layoffs came on the heel of rumors, from earlier in the week, that Telltale was shutting down. A skeleton crew of 25 has remained at Telltale, and the studio is completing work on the Minecraft: Story Mode adaptation for Netflix. The company's other works in progress are either cancelled (like a Stranger Things project and The Wolf Among Us 2) or up in the air (Telltale has said that it's figuring out how to finish and ship The Walking Dead: The Final Season).
And now, Polygon reports that Telltale has Roberts' class-action lawsuit on its hands. The suit alleges that the studio violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the "WARN" act), which has both a federal and a more demanding state-level version in California, where Telltale is headquartered. According to the WARN act, which applies to most companies with 100 or more full-time workers, those business must provide a 60-day notice prior to closings or "mass layoffs." The definition of such layoffs depends on the company's size: They amount to, as Polygon explains, "reduction[s] of 50 or more employees within a 30-day period (if the total comprises at least one-third of the company’s workforce), or any layoff of 500 or more workers." The scope of Telltale's layoffs also seem to fall within the California-level version of the law, which requires notices for even smaller companies and layoffs.
In the days since the layoffs, many have noted Telltale's mistreatment of the laid-off employees - namely, the fact that they have not received severance pay. Roberts' suit aims to remedy that mistreatment by seeking an amount equal to the pay and benefits that the workers would have received for 60 more days of work, plus interest, as per WARN guidelines. Roberts claims that the Telltale employees were not given any advance notice about their fates with the company, and that the number of affected individuals is approximately 275, which is higher than the earlier reported figure of 250.
When discussing Telltale's failure, the following can't be said enough: The fact that fans of Telltale will miss out on their games is unfortunate, but it pales in comparison to the fact that more than 200 workers were laid off without warning or severance pay. With calls for the unionization of workers in the video game industry proliferating, the Telltale debacle might give the movement further momentum. That could be a silver lining in the future, but, for now, the class-action lawsuit seeks more immediate progress.