Squanch Games, which was co-founded by Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland, quietly settled a sexual harassment lawsuit back in 2019, it has been reported.
Court documents are said to reveal that the studio – known for games such as High On Life – was sued in 2018 over sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination by a former employee, with the studio initially denying claims before settling.
According to the suit (reported via Kotaku), former employee Sarah Doukakos alleged that she was sexually harassed and belittled by then-technical director Jeff Dixon, who reportedly forced unwanted hugs on her and questioned her intelligence and competence. He also allegedly told her once that a T-shirt she wore with the words “The Future is Female” made him sad.
Doukakos also apparently told her managers about the issues, requesting at one point that current design director Erich Meyr present her ideas to Dixon instead of her in order to be taken seriously.
According to the suit, manager Anthony Bosco raised the issues with then-chief executive officer Tanya Watson, who apparently “sighed”, while Doukakos spoke to Watson directly, after which, according to the suit, “Watson told Plaintiff, ‘that’s just how this generation of guys are’ and instructed plaintiff to sit quietly, take notes, and to smile whenever the males, including Dixon, were speaking. Plaintiff explicitly told Watson that Plaintiff should not have to act differently as a woman to get heard.”
Doukakos was allegedly put on a performance improvement plan the following month, and had to work 12-hour days during a “crunch” period and pushed back on game content that allegedly included scenes analogous to rape and remarks denigrating women. Kotaku reports that the game in question was Trover Saves the Universe.
That November, she was fired over reported performance issues, the suit alleging that it was in response to her complaints, with Watson allegedly pressuring Doukakos to release all claims in order to receive a final paycheck and severance package.
Squanch Games denied the claims, though settled in September 2019. Dixon left shortly after Doukakos, while Watson left in February 2021.
Squanch Games told Kotaku in a statement: “Squanch Games is committed to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment for our team. We don’t publicly disclose personnel matters, and we stand by the decision we made in 2017, not to reveal the confidential information as it relates to this case.”
The reported suit comes after Roiland – who has been CEO of Squanch Games since 2016 – was charged over an alleged incident of domestic violence from 2020.
The Rick and Morty co-creator and star was charged in Orange County, California in May 2020 with one count of domestic battery with corporal injury, as well as one felony count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud and/or deceit.
He previously pleaded not guilty to both charges in October 2020, and following a pre-trial hearing last week, another hearing is set to take place on April 27.
NME has reached out to Squanch Games for comment.
For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.