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Unity faces lawsuit as John Riccitiello accused of sexual harassment

UPDATE: Engine provider says it will "defend vigorously against the false allegations" from former employee who claims she was unfairly dismissed

Original Story 10/06/2019: A former employee of Unity is suing the engine provider, claiming she was sexually harassed by CEO John Riccitiello.

Anne Evans worked at the firm's San Francisco headquarters from September 2015, starting as senior director of recruiting before being promoted to vice president in 2017. She reported to chief people officer Elizabeth Brown.

Evans has filed a suit with the Superior Court of California and is claiming damages for retaliation, termination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing act, failure to prevent discrimination, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

She claims that, during her time at Unity, the workplace was "highly sexualised", where Riccitiello and other men in management "spoke openly about women in a sexual manner, made sexist jokes, and flirted with and pursued sexual relationships with female employees and contractors."

Riccitiello is also said to have been boastful of his previous sexual conquests, detailing ages and acts they performed, which Brown would laugh at approvingly. When Brown and Riccitiello later started a relationship, the former would also discuss their sex life in explicit detail.

Evans described several incidents where Riccitiello made "inappropriate sexual comments" towards here, including that he thought the way she walked was "sexy" and he "could not believe she was a lesbian."

Riccitiello also allegedly invited Evans to his hotel room or on work trips where he propositioned her for sex, and propositioned two of the people that reported directly to her to have a threesome. These advances were all rejected.

After each incident, the Unity CEO is said to have pressured her to not share what happened, once telling Evans: "It would be good for your career if you keep your mouth shut about last night." This pressure increased as he suspected Evans has told other employees what had happened.

The lawsuit tells of a seemingly separate incident that kicked off in February 2019 between Evans and Natalie Mulay, head of recruiting for the Americas, that eventually led to Evans' dismissal.

Mulay reportedly accessed responses from a company-wide survey without authorisation, and shared some of this information with Evans, who reported her to Brown. Mulay threatened to retaliate by accusing Evans of sexual harassment (the two were in a brief consensual relationship back in 2016, before Mulay reported to Evans).

An investigation ensued but in April, Evans was cleared of all sexual harassment charges. However, her employment was terminated after it was found that she had accepted gifts from Mulay, in violation of company policy.

Evans maintains there is no such policy at Unity, written or otherwise, and she had never been informed of this. She also asserts that other employees have exchanged gifts without consequences.

The lawsuit alleges that Unity's termination of Evans employment was "motivated, in substantial part, by her sex and her unwillingess to conform to the company's sexually-charged environment and rejection of sexual advances from the company's CEO."

A case management conference is set for November 6, 2019.

In a statement to Variety, a Unity spokesperson denied the allegations, adding: "Unity intends to vigorously defend against the false allegations asserted by Anne Evans.

"Following a third-party investigation that surfaced facts that Evans engaged in serious misconduct and established multiple instances in which she demonstrated a gross lapse in judgment, Unity terminated her employment."

Meanwhile, TechCrunch reports it has seen an internal email sent around the company by chief legal officer Ruth Ann Keene, which says also maintains Evans' allegations are false.

"We are well prepared for the next steps in this legal matter and also expect it to become public... We take these issues seriously at Unity, just as we did when we learned about concerns involving Anne.

"We don't tolerate harassment here, and we have policies in place to address relationships in the workplace. These are issues we discuss with all of you so that you know and trust the resources available to you, and we are committed to continuing to do so."

Update: The full Unity statement has since been sent to GamesIndustry.biz, in which a spokesperson says:

"Unity intends to vigorously defend against the false allegations asserted by Anne Evans. Following a third-party investigation that surfaced facts that Evans engaged in serious misconduct and established multiple instances in which she demonstrated a gross lapse in judgment, Unity terminated her employment.

"This was an undesirable outcome for Evans, and we had been working with her on the details of her departure when she filed a public lawsuit that includes false and damaging claims against the company, our CEO and a number of our employees. Before and throughout the investigation, Evans had multiple opportunities to share her concerns about her experiences at the company through confidential and objective mechanisms, yet never did.

"We take these issues seriously at Unity, just as we did when we learned about concerns involving Evans. We do not tolerate harassment, and we have policies in place to address relationships in the workplace.

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