Ex-Blizzard, Apple employee files labor complaint against Epic Games

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Former Activision Blizzard and Apple employee Cher Scarlett has filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Epic Games, accusing the “Fortnite” developer of refusing to hire her because of her labor advocacy and support of unions.

In the complaint, Scarlett makes multiple claims, alleging Epic refused to hire her because she supported a labor organization, is working with the NLRB and has been protesting work conditions.

Epic Games spokesperson Elka Looks confirmed Scarlett did interview with the company as one of two candidates for a position as a senior front-end web developer. She said the company was aware of Scarlett’s labor advocacy early on in the job hiring process and it did not impact the decision.

“This candidate’s resume and application included a link to their personal website. The website details their organizing activity, and this information did not factor into our decision to proceed with interviews,” Looks stated.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Scarlett claimed she had gone through four rounds of interviews with Epic between November and December 2021. According to emails shared with The Post, on Dec. 8 a recruiting coordinator at Epic sent Scarlett an email with an attached “Request for Activity” form that asks for the disclosure of “any efforts you take outside of work that may overlap with your potential role at Epic.” In the email, the recruiter wrote that the company “would like to get a head start on this process.”

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Scarlett filled out the Request for Activity form on Dec. 8, saying she has been advising Apple members on a labor movement called “Apple Together” and testifying before the federal government for fair labor practices, according to the form, which was provided to The Post. Two days later, Epic told her they decided to go with another candidate.

“We offered the position to someone else who scored higher in their interviews,” Looks said. “We received [Scarlett’s] ‘Request for Outside Activities’ form after we had already made a hiring decision for the position and had extended an offer to someone else. The form did not play any role in our decision. Candidates are asked to fill out an outside activity form over the course of the recruitment process and providing the form to a candidate is not a confirmation that an offer is forthcoming.”

At the time of publication, Epic Games had not received nor reviewed the complaint. The NLRB office is currently investigating the labor complaint, and if it finds sufficient evidence, it will then issue a complaint against Epic.

Scarlett, who is now a senior software engineer at ControlZee working on a game called “dot big bang,” told The Post she is “still heartbroken over how naive [she] was to believe this company was on the side of laborers.”

“There is no other explanation, except for the fact that I put that stuff in writing … but I was trying to be honest, you know?” Scarlett said. “This was such a great match that I let go of other prospects and now really distrust the industry at large and feel like my voice, along with the voices of the others in the workplace are seen as a liability, rather than an important part of making great workplaces.”

Scarlett also has an NLRB charge, filed Feb. 9, 2022, against Mozilla, similarly accusing the tech company of “refusing to hire” her due to her labor advocacy. She also has three open charges against Apple, accusing the iPhone creator of stopping attempts to gather wage data, of retaliating against workers and creating a hostile work environment that forced her to leave in Nov. 2021. The NLRB is investigating the Mozilla, Epic and Apple charges. Apple and Mozilla did not respond to requests for comment.

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“An employer violates the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act] if it discriminates against job applicants because of their union activities,” said Cornell professor of labor and employment law Risa Lieberwitz. “The evidence that the applicant went through a round of interviews, but then the employer hired someone else after learning about the union activity raises the question of whether the employer’s refusal to hire her was motivated by her union activity. But it will depend on all the evidence.”

Lieberwitz noted that Epic’s questions to applicants about their outside activities “does raise the issue of whether the question was overly broad in seeking information that could include applicants’ association with labor organizations.”

“The unfair labor practice issue is whether such a question to applicants interfered with employee rights to engage in union activity or other labor-related concerted activity,” she said.

Scarlett previously garnered media attention when she helped Apple workers band together to criticize the company, and for sharing her story of being sexually harassed during her time at Activision Blizzard from August 2015 to 2016. She’s amassed a Twitter following of over 50,000, as she calls out workplace issues, such as an alleged pay gap at Starbucks, where she’s also worked. She cited the legal troubles between Epic and Apple as an initial indication that Epic might have been a good place to work at after she had to leave Apple.

“[Epic doesn’t] really want somebody like me, either,” Scarlett said. “Like, I basically blew the whistle on Blizzard. I mean, even though it’s five years later, and then I also blew the whistle on Apple. It’s like what’s going to happen if there’s a problem?” Scarlett added that she first surfaced issues at both companies internally. “And, you know, nothing ever came of it.”

The NLRB has received a number of recent complaints regarding video game companies. Last week, Nintendo was accused of violating a worker’s legal right to form a union. The worker’s name was kept anonymous in the complaint. Nintendo responded that it was not aware of any attempts to unionize and that the worker was terminated for disclosing confidential information.

Last week, the NLRB weighed in favor of employees at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, in a labor dispute against the employer.

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