Former employee files transgender discrimination suit against Valve

The litigant is seeking more than $3 million in damages as compensation for Valve allegedly creating a hostile work environment.

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Alleging that Valve created a hostile work environment following her reassignment surgery, a former employee is suing the Steam platform creator for $3.1 million in damages.

The report comes from editors at Polygon, who got their hands on paperwork concerning the lawsuit. The litigant, identified only by her initials, worked on-site at Valve as a translator until sometime in 2012, when she informed Valve of her intention to go through with gender reassignment surgery, and that she would need to relocate to Los Angeles to be close to her doctors after surgery. Valve approved her request and allowed her to work from home while recovering.

Valve's consent came with a condition: since the now-former employee would no longer be on-site, she had to be reclassified internally as a contractor rather than a salaried worker.

Everything proceeded normally from there, until the translator accused Valve of—in her view—exploiting other translators who, per the lawsuit, were unpaid due to "false promises" by the company. She filed a written complaint, and was fired days later, in early 2016.

Here's where things get complicated. Valve and the litigant tell conflicting versions of events surrounding her firing: Valve says she was not terminated, but rather, her job was being relocated to Washington State where she worked before moving to Los Angeles for her surgery and recovery period. "However, when the Plaintiff [former employee] offered to relocate back to Washington, Defendant [Valve] refused," per the lawsuit paperwork. (This paragraph was revised for clarity.)

The former employee maintains that she was fired for filing her official complaint regarding unpaid translators, and because her supervisor was uncomfortable with her following her reassignment, allegedly referring to her as "it" on more than one occasion.

On April 12, she filed a lawsuit for $3.1 million in damages: $1 million for general damages, $1 million for special damages, $1 million for loss of earnings, and $150,000 for penalties and unpaid wages.

Valve issued a written response on May 20 and denied every allegation, asking for the complaint to be tossed.

Source: Polygon

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

Filed Under
From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 24, 2016 3:42 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Former employee files transgender discrimination suit against Valve

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 3:46 PM

      I hope more details come out soon. It doesn't seem like she has a strong case, but who knows what evidence she has to back it up.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 3:51 PM

      as much merit as this stuff may or may not have...i wish it would not get this national attention it keeps getting. just handle it by those involved. this stuff doesn't need to be construed as a national crisis or some deep rooted social issue.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 4:22 PM

        Leveraging societal outcry is absolutely an integral part of advancing anti discrimination policy or any equity related issue on a national level

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 4:23 PM

          It's best to ignore .shozo. He's determined to be wrong as often as possible.

          • reply
            May 24, 2016 4:48 PM

            neat...i have a fan club...this is awesome. what's up my #1 fan? bad day?

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 4:43 PM

          Punishing discrimination has been going on for a long time now. There are plenty of laws on the book protecting against it already.

          • reply
            May 24, 2016 4:47 PM

            What do you mean? It is an ongoing process, which is why gay marriage was infront of the supreme court recently as well as gay cakes and many other issues regarding discrimination and protected (or unprotected in this case) classes. It isn't a solved issue. Not sure what you're point is.

            • reply
              May 24, 2016 4:49 PM

              There are discrimination laws for both male and female or any sexual orientation (which has no bearing at work), so there are plenty of lawsuits from people claiming discrimination no matter what gender they are.

              Are you saying there are loopholes that prevent the transgendered from being protected against discrimination?

            • reply
              May 24, 2016 6:21 PM

              Too bad you have fake cake dudes looking for their 15 seconds of fame.

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 4:47 PM

          i just don't think it's as wide spread of a problem as the narrative is playing this all out to be. we don't need to be aware of every single court case out there or every person/company that issues a statement on various things.

          • reply
            May 24, 2016 4:48 PM

            Theres like 13 states either in the process of passing legislation or having passed legislation regarding trans rights in their states. How is it a non issue?

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              May 24, 2016 4:54 PM

              good for them. that process will play out how those states feel it should for them. life goes on. such and such. the other thing here is when do you stop catering to the various groups of people feeling they're discriminated against? these affected groups are smaller and smaller as each takes issue with <insert offending problem here>. i sincerely doubt the population of transgender is anywhere near the number of homosexuals.

              what if suddenly all the left handed people complained that doors need to hinge from the other direction? because they feel discriminated against by all the right handed people. or not enough products are made for left handed people.

              it's getting old and tired to hear the same arguments over and over and over...just swap out the affected group of people's label/name/category/whatever from the same sentences. the reality we all live in and most people choose to accept is that everyone, every creature, every entity on this planet is inherently different....period. get the fuck over it.

              • reply
                May 24, 2016 5:29 PM

                Laws that protect people exist specifically to combat the fact that much of society seems to be incapable of saying "Everyone is different, no big."

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 4:49 PM

        Bathrooms dude. BATHROOMS.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 3:52 PM

      I really don't understand this paragraph:

      Here's where things get complicated. Valve claims she was "fired" only because she had recovered and would be relocating to Washington State, where the company is based. In other words, she'd be reclassified, as she was when making the jump from salary to contractual. But the litigant says she offered to move only for Valve to dismiss her permanently.

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        May 24, 2016 4:12 PM

        Sorry! I reread that paragraph and it was more confusing the third time around. I've revised it for clarity; the story should update within the next few minutes.

        The gist of what happened was this: Valve claimed the former employee wasn't being fired; they were reclassifying her and relocating her back to HQ in Washington State. But she says that when she offered to relocate, Valve fired her with no intention of relocating her or hiring her back.

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 4:18 PM

          Thanks that reads much better!

          There's the risk of becoming a contractor. I feel like she doesn't have much of a leg to stand on.

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            May 24, 2016 4:34 PM

            The combination of complaints about the firing seem a bit peculiar to me. Certainly not impossible, but odd enough to make me skeptical. I mean, Valve managed to apply two completely different, independent, legally stupid reasons to fire her?

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            May 24, 2016 5:43 PM

            Ya, this doesn't seem to give her much ground to stand on. If you allow yourself to get classified as a contractor, and your contract basically allow the company to cancel your contract for any reason and w/o prior notice, then well that's how it works when you're self employed. And, I think even if they went through a contracting company, there was probably enough legal language in that contract so they could probably do the same thing. Just let her go w/o prior notice.

            If any of that is even remotely close, I don't see how she has much legal legs to stand on.

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              May 24, 2016 11:31 PM

              I'm reading all of that as Valve moved her position back to Seattle (where she was offered to go), and she says that she said she'd come back, but then Valve rescinded the offer.

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 4:54 PM

          i wonder if she wanted paid relocation and it got denied, to which she decided she wasn't getting rehired.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 4:10 PM

      I'm glad this sort of thing is getting national attention. This is how society grows and evolved.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 4:22 PM

      So this person asked to move to a new city and keep their job. Valve generously accommodates the request and reclassified them as a contractor so they can work from home.

      As a thank you our hero files a formal complaint about valve not paying other translators (?) and valve says "lol okay that's enough" and the person is let go.

      They better have that "it" stuff documented in emails or something or this one is gonna get tossed in a hurry.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 4:23 PM

        was the "it" part really necessary there bud?

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 4:26 PM

          GC did you read the article? They're claiming they were referred to as "it."

          If that's documented it's the strongest part of the case.

          • reply
            May 24, 2016 4:28 PM

            i misread, i thought you were calling her "it".

            fucking triggered man. why u trigger me

            • reply
              May 24, 2016 4:29 PM

              fwiw you just triggered me by putting the period outside of the quotations.

              consider us even.

              • reply
                May 24, 2016 4:35 PM

                man who made that dumb rule anyway? i do what i want

              • reply
                May 24, 2016 4:38 PM

                I always do that. It simply makes more syntactic sense.

                • reply
                  May 24, 2016 4:45 PM

                  Professionally speaking, it's a regional thing: American English says put punctuation in quotes; in British English, they go outside in the cold.

                  • reply
                    May 24, 2016 4:48 PM

                    poetically it signifies a transwoman's separation from periods

                  • reply
                    May 24, 2016 4:56 PM

                    Yeah, and I grew up reading more British stuff for whatever reason. I am adamant that it makes more sense, though; in high school I took a hit on every paper I submitted in my junior year because I wouldn't "correct" my punctuation for a teacher who was insistent.

                    • reply
                      May 24, 2016 5:02 PM

                      Understandable. I've talked about this before, but my approach is to follow client guidelines. You want punctuation outside of quotes? You got it. As long as the check clears.

                      Also, I've found I can unlearn any writing habit if given enough time. I had a helluva time adjusting to single spaces after sentences. Now, I can't stand double spaces. It look at them and think, "Why are you wasting so much space?!"

                  • reply
                    May 24, 2016 5:32 PM

                    Despite being born and raised in the United States, I'm constantly discovering that many of my spelling and grammar inclinations are on the British side. Aside from adding 'u' where it isn't needed, because that's just silly.

              • reply
                May 24, 2016 4:45 PM

                Get ready to be triggered "alot". For all intensive purposes, putting punctuation outside of short quotes makes more sense. Which begs the question, why would you be against it? Irregardless, you don't have a leg to stand on so I could care less.

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 5:46 PM

          he was saying the plaintiff better have the accusation of being called 'it' well documented.

          • reply
            May 24, 2016 5:48 PM

            lol. I guess I hadn't refreshed chatty in a while. whoops.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 4:52 PM

        I wonder if she's falling on a sword for these folks:

        https://www.reddit.com/r/Steam/comments/44yl24/how_a_whole_language_of_the_steam_translation/

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 5:55 PM

          from the filing - sorry, not reformatting the c&p from pdf

          Plaintiff
          felt
          bad
          for
          the
          exploited minors
          and
          complained
          to
          Human
          Resources about
          this
          issue, and
          other complaints
          involving
          Torsten
          Zabka creating
          a
          hostile work
          environtnent
          and
          mistreating
          ernployees

          • reply
            May 24, 2016 10:13 PM

            Yeah, I remember reading about this. Not really sure what to make of it.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 5:26 PM

        Are you purposely avoiding saying her or she? Just curious.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 5:48 PM

        Ya, if she got moved to contractor with a standard agreement, even if they went through a contracting company, Valve probably has all the legal room they need to basically just terminate her contract w/o prior notice and not have to really give a reason as to why. You can't really get "fired" from a contract role. They can cancel your contract, or ask the service to replace you, etc. I think she may be trying to confuse it simply because she was a former employee. Sounds like she rolled the dice on the contract and lost.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 4:34 PM

      I'll be honest, I haven't actually heard many things that would make me want to work at Valve. Maybe back in the HL/HL2 days, but definitely nothing in recent history.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 5:01 PM

        Well they probably pay a lot of moneys

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 5:49 PM

        Highest salary in the industry, moderate working hours, plentiful vacation time, and tons of creative freedom. Sounds awful.

        • reply
          May 24, 2016 7:16 PM

          A modern-day Auschwitz

        • reply
          May 25, 2016 9:15 AM

          The perks sound pretty nice, but the actual work sounds a bit like a shit show, lacking in direction and uninteresting if you're not into DOTA or Steam backend stuff.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 6:47 PM

        They take the entire company to Hawaii on vacation for two weeks and maybe even let them bring their families. I think that's the one place I'd be willing to sell my home for to relocate to.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 5:24 PM

      Valve surely cannot commit evil

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 6:09 PM

      are initial court filings usually this sparse of exhibits?

      http://www.polygon.com/2016/5/24/11761242/valve-former-employee-lawsuit-transgender-discrimination

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 8:30 PM

        The initial pleadings many times wont have any exhibits at all. That'll all come out in discovery.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 6:43 PM

      I call bullshit. First off, what does this have to do with being transgender? Seattle is the last place besides maybe San Francisco I'd expect any type of discrimination. Secondly, 3 mill seems like a lot but it's not. It would be much higher if this were legit.

    • reply
      May 24, 2016 10:16 PM

      Kind of an aside question, but what's the difference between $1m in "lost earnings" and $150K in "unpaid wages". Isn't that the same thing?

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 11:33 PM

        Not if Valve has stock grants, profit sharing or the like. Where I work, it's a very substantial amount of the money I make.

      • reply
        May 24, 2016 11:39 PM

        Lost earnings is presumably what she could have earned elsewhere I guess? It's like opportunity cost.

    • reply
      May 25, 2016 3:00 AM

      Sounds less like she was fired for transitioning and more like she was gotten rid of for rocking the boat.

    • reply
      May 25, 2016 10:44 AM

      The report comes from editors at Polygon, who got their hands on paperwork concerning the lawsuit.

      Their hands must have been on it while trying to capture that Doom footage.

    • reply
      May 26, 2016 1:17 AM

      A special snowflake acting like all things in the known and unknown universe revolve around their "special" condition.
      Nothing new.

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