Old School Runescape mod fired in 2018 for stealing player gold wins unfair dismissal complaint

Old School Runescape
(Image credit: Jagex)

In 2018, Jagex fired Old School Runescape moderator Jed Sanderson—known to the community as Mod Jed—for "gross misuse of moderator privileges": Specifically, that he was stealing huge amounts of in-game currency from other players. But the Cambridge Employment Tribunal in the UK has determined that Sanderson was unfairly terminated, and awarded him damages as a result.

The case began back in mid-2018, when an Old School Runescape player claimed that he'd lost 45 billion coins because of a "serious data breach." That represents a lot of money in the real world: Exchange rates fluctuate but based on current prices at gold selling sites, that much Old School Runescape gold is worth roughly $20,000.

Some players doubted the veracity of the tale, but a couple of months after the complaint went up, Jagex confirmed it was legit, announcing that a member of the team "was dismissed from employment at Jagex following gross misuse of moderator privileges." The studio didn't name the employee but a deep-dive Resetera post alleged that it was Sanderson. Sanderson was previously known to the community because of his association with Reign of Terror, an Old School Runescape clan accused of using DDoS attacks to cheat in Runescape tournaments.

Anyway, Sanderson was fired and that was that—except it wasn't, because it turns out that in November 2018, just a couple months after he was let go, he filed a complaint with the Employment Tribunal. It took more than three years for the claim to grind through the system, but following a hearing in January, the tribunal issued a finding in favor of Sanderson in February.

The full ruling is long and hinges on a lot of procedural matters, but the short version is that Sanderson claimed he was not actually responsible for the theft of gold, and that Jagex did not investigate the matter properly because it had "predetermined" that he was guilty. The tribunal agreed, saying that his culpability based on the evidence available at the time is "speculative," and that Jagex failed to properly investigate the matter before terminating him.

"The outcome letters do not reflect a reasonable investigation. There are no specifics of the allegations of gross misconduct, details of technical evidence or replies to issues that were raised by Mr Sanderson which led to the adjournment of the disciplinary hearing and on appeal," the ruling states. "I find, therefore, that the claimant was unfairly dismissed by the respondent within section 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1998."

Interestingly, while the employment judge says in the initial ruling that "it is not inevitable that Mr Sanderson would have been dismissed" if a proper investigation had taken place, they reversed that position in the later remedy judgment.

"I find that had a fair procedure been followed ... the decision of the respondent as to whether the claimant was guilty of the misconduct alleged would have, likely, been the same," the judge wrote. "Therefore, on reconsideration I would say that 100% the respondent would have dismissed [the claimant] such was their belief in the evidence."

That decision means the compensatory award in the case, which would have been just shy of £12,000 ($15,640) based on lost wages, was reduced to 0. Sanderson's overall compensation was reduced a further 50% because he "contributed to his dismissal." He was awarded another £500 ($652) for loss of statutory rights, however, leaving him with a total of £1,008 ($1,314) on his unfair dismissal claim. Sanderson had also requested an order reinstating him at Jagex—that request was refused.

Thanks, GamesIndustry.

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.