French game workers union sues Ubisoft for 'institutional sexual harassment'

Ubisoft Montreal
(Image credit: Ubisoft Montreal)

The Solidaires Informatique union has filed a new complaint against Ubisoft with the courts in Bobigny, France, alleging that executives including CEO Yves Guillemot enabled and encouraged a culture of "institutional sexual harassment" at the company.

"In June 2020, dozens of testimonies emerged on social medias, quickly backed by articles from various outlets (Libération and Numérama in particular), reporting cases of sexual harassment within Ubisoft, with the complacency of the Human Resources departments, which was protecting the harassers and silencing the victims," Solidaires Informatique said in a translated statement sent via email.

"On July 15, 2021, a complaint was filed at the Bobigny criminal court by Maude Beckers, both representing the Solidaires Informatique union and several victims of the company."

Specifically named in the complaint are:

  • Tommy François, formerly Ubisoft's vice president of editorial and creative services, for allegedly taking advantage of his position in order to harass multiple people;
  • Serge Hascoët, former Ubisoft chief creative officer, for allegedly taking advantage of his position in order to harass multiple people and failing to prevent similar behavior by his subordinates;
  • Serge Hascoët's assistant, for allegedly taking advantage of his proximity to Mr. Hascoët and harassing multiple people;
  • Cécile Cornet, former global director of human resources, who allegedly allowed harassment to flourish within the company;
  • Several unnamed individuals from the Human Resources Department, for "having actively participating in covering up and hiding the harasser's actions";
  • Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, not for any specific allegations but because "as CEO, he is responsible for what happens within the company."

"More importantly, the complaint targets Ubisoft as a company, for institutional sexual harassment," the union said. "For establishing, maintaining and reinforcing a system where sexual harassment is tolerated, because keeping harassers in place is deemed more profitable for the company than protecting employees. This harassment, tolerated and done by the upper echelons of the company, protected by the Human Resources departments, has created a company-wide system. Beyond the list of people mentioned above, this action seeks to dismantle the dynamics of this system."   

François, Hascoët, and Cornet are no longer with Ubisoft: All three departed the company last year amid allegations of workplace misconduct and abuse. Yannis Mallat, the managing director of Ubisoft's Canadian studios, and Ubisoft vice president Maxime Beland also resigned from the company over similar complaints. Guillemot apologized for the abuses in September 2020, but took no responsibility for them.

In more recent months, Guillemot has touted leadership changes at the company aimed at making Ubisoft "an exemplary workplace in the tech industry." Not everyone is convinced that things are actually changing, however, or that Guillemot has the ability to make it happen. A May report by Le Télégramme said some employees don't believe that meaningful changes are being made, leading to the #holdubisoftaccountable hashtag trending on Twitter. The report also said that the union was planning collective legal action against Ubisoft, presumably a reference to this complaint.

A Solidaires Informatique representative said that the union is filing the complaint now because it took roughly a year to collect evidence and testimonies, and put the case together. 

"Institutional sexual harassment is a charge that is very rarely seen in court in France, and the lawyer, Maude Beckers, wanted to have the strongest complaint possible," the rep said. "However, we consider that the changes made by Ubisoft are superficial ... The situation inside hasn't changed much, and we hope the evolution of the case will also keep bringing attention to its evolution, and keep putting pressure on Ubisoft to commit to its promises."

Solidaires Informatique invited other potential complainants to join the action, "to testify or to file a complaint." In response to an inquiry about the new complaint, a Ubisoft representative provided a link to the company's May 2021 update detailing changes at the company in response to the allegations of misconduct, but beyond that said only that "we do not have further details regarding the claim filed against Ubisoft."

Thanks, Kotaku.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.