Stardock Lawsuit Saga: Employee Ruined Game After Being Sexually Harrased By The Boss

This goes way back to the disappointing release of Elemental: War of Magic in 2010. The strategy title was riddled with bugs, glitches and was said to have an awful gameplay experience.

Two years after the release of the game, publisher Stardock has filed a lawsuit today against a former employee by the name of Alexandra Miseta. The lawsuit claims that she ruined the game prior to her departure from the studio, shortly before release.

Looking back at the matters it seems their is a long history between Miseta and Brad Wardell, the CEO of Stardock.

Back in August of 2010 Miseta left the publishing house threatening a suit against the CEO for sexual harassment; which she did in December of that year .

From the court records we can take a look at some of the actions on Brad’s part that ticked Miseta off.

  • Brad would occasionally comment on female employees about their breast and bra sizes.
  • He once commented that Miseta should go to a conference because ‘she is hot.”
  • He once asked Miseta to attend a media tour because “her nipples look better on TV.”
  • During the media tour he visited the hotel room where Miseta was staying with another female colleague.
  • During a dinner on the media tour he touched Miseta’s hair.

Miseta finally couldn’t stand it all and sent a letter to her boss implying the following points:

1. Please never touch my hair or any of my body parts; not even jokingly.
2. Please do not talk about my private life or about my boyfriend/future husband in any terms especially negative terms.
3. Please be careful with your “jokes” which are at many times inappropriate, sexist, vulgar and very embarrassing not only to me, but everyone present.
4. Please keep your negative personal opinions of others (including family members and/or coworkers) not present at the time of your comments, to yourself. I feel, at times, it puts me in a very uncomfortable position.

Wardell’s reply to her points was the following:

I don’t recall item #1 but will certainly endeavor to be extra careful.
I understand #2. I will be more conscious of this in the future.
#3, however is not acceptable to me. I am an inappropriate, sexist, vulgar, and embarrassing person and I’m not inclined to change my behavior. If this is a problem, you will need to find another job.
#4, Again, I am not willing to adapt my behavior to suit others. IF you find my behavior problematic, I recommend finding another job.

I’m not some manager or coworker of yours. I own the company. It, and your job here, exist to suit my purposes, not vice versa. The company is not an end unto itself, it is a means to an end which is to further the objectives of its shareholders (in this case, me).

While I certainly agree that your rights as a person (certainly in terms of physical contact or interms of comments made towards you regarding your private live) take precedence over my rights as the owner of the business, that is as far as it goes.

Miseta took Wardell’s advice and left Stardock as soon as she found a new job.

The process of her suit against her boss took it’s time in the court, slowly making progress. Wardell’s attorneys at one point filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit but this summer the court denied the motion. Both will now go to trial on a date not yet known.

Wardell filed a lawsuit against her three weeks later.

Taking a look at both lawsuits, Miseta’s case asks for amounts exceeding $25000 in unspecified damages while Wardell’s case seeks in excess of $1 million in damages.

According to his attorneys, Miseta destroyed the Elemental marketing materials, analytics, and trade show information. Hence, Stardock had to spend more time recreating the marketing materials instead of fixing and ridding the game of bugs.

A former Stardock employee spoke anonymously that the game already had many issues and none had anything to do with marketing. The employee also added that at the time, nobody mentioned any materials having gone missing or any sabotage having taken place.

The CEO Wardell went ahead and responded to the accusations online. Here is his complete letter:

Ok, I’m going to respond here since I’m being directly accused of something.

The incident that started this happened back in 2010. Myself, Alexandra, and a few others were at a pub while waiting to go to the Qt3 dinner that Lloyd case had set up.

While there, Alexandra got teased and got mad. At the time, i didn’t realize she was so upset about it. So we went to the Qt3 get together (that some here may have even been at) and that.

She later emailed me telling me she was mad about the incident – to which I apologized for hurting her feeligs but also insisted that I watch what jokes I tell around the office. (To understand the context, we’re a relaxed software company, lots of Family guy jokes, Simpsons references, Robot Chicken references, etc.). To which I responded, admittedly, very very harshly to.

Now, you can argue that I was a jerk in how I responded to her. But it does not justify her getting pissed off, quitting without notice and using her network access to wipe out our marketing assets 3 weeks before the ship of the game forcing me and a few other key team members to scramble at the last second to deal with it.

In addition, I would ask those who are so quick to condemn me personally to ask themselves this – what impact do you think it would have on your team if a key person quit, wiped out a bunch of stuff and made a bunch of legal theats? Think of the effect it would have around the office.

NO one has suggested that if she hadn’t done this that Elemental would have been a great game. But there is a huge gulf between having a “great game” and a “total disaster”. The ultimate blame for the game’s failure lies with me for reasons I’ve stated countless times. But that doesn’t excuse someone from maliciously and intentionally wiping out years worth of marketing data, assets, etc.

And the charge that this is “retaliatory” is ridiculous and, frankly, offensive to not just me but virtually everyone here at Stardock – who I can assure you are at least as pissed off as I was about what she did.

The only thing that has recently changed is that our case against her got moved to federal court and that we have continued our position of not settling her frivolous case.

[via Kotaku]