A group of seven former BioWare employees who were among the 50 laid off in August have filed a lawsuit against the company seeking better severance pay and punitive damages for what they claim is "unreasonably poor treatment by BioWare" following their termination.
Worobec Law Offices, the firm representing the former employees, said that in "most recent court cases of termination without cause," courts in Alberta, Canada—where BioWare is based—have awarded at least one month of severance pay for every year of service with the company, including the value of all employee benefits. BioWare, according to the firm, offered "significantly less" than that amount, and refused to negotiate any kind of increase.
"In light of the numerous recent industry layoffs and the fact that BioWare's NDAs prevent us from showing any of our recent work on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf in our portfolios, we are very concerned about the difficulty many of us will have finding work as the holiday season approaches," one of the former employees said in a statement shared by attorney R. Alex Kennedy.
"While we remain supportive of the game we worked so hard on, and of our colleagues continuing that work, we are struggling to understand why BioWare is shortchanging us in this challenging time."
Kennedy said it's not uncommon for employers to include termination provisions in employee contracts that are not enforced by courts, and he believes that's the case here: Basing the severance pay offered to former employees strictly on their base salary, without including the value of their benefits "appears to be contrary to the Employment Standards Code."
Speaking to PC Gamer, Kennedy said his firm has been in discussions with BioWare since September, during which time the company "has absolutely refused to increase the amount of severance under any terms." There was initially a "much higher number" of former employees interested in the case when those discussions began, he said, but many chose to drop out over worries that BioWare would halt all severance pay: "They couldn't risk the time it might take to get a judgment."
"It’s understandable, especially when people have young families to feed," Kennedy said. "But fear is also how big companies like BioWare keep getting away with things like this, in my opinion, and I would like to see that change."
BioWare is just one of many game developers and publishers to lay off employees in 2023: Its parent company EA, Naughty Dog, Epic Games, Beamdog, Activision, CD Projekt, Firaxis, Relic, and Embracer Group have all cut staff this year, as have larger tech companies Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. I've reached out to BioWare for comment and will update if I receive a reply.