Multiple Lab Zero Games employees have resigned from the developer behind such games as Skullgirls and Indivisible following inappropriate behavior and abuse from its studio head Mike “MikeZ” Zaimont.
Zaimont was previously accused of making two employees “uncomfortable with demeaning and sexually suggestive comments” and, on July 3, 2020, Lab Zero Games Tweeted that it would make a “full statement soon” on the allegations.
This statement never happened, and now multiple Lab Zero Games employees have resigned and are speaking up against the abuse that occurred at the studio.
Former lead animator and art director Mariel Cartwright called Mike a “close friend and coworker for 10 years,” and tried to be as “understanding as any friend could by trying to listen to his side, always being willing to talk things through.”
However, following the “widely-criticized racist joke and then the inappropriate DMs and other stories, Cartwright and the team started speaking up.
“What we realized was that there was a pattern of behavior that I don’t think we had fully understood until then,” Cartwright wrote. “A pattern of hostility, insults, threats, lying, and harassment that many on our team had not openly shared with each other before.”
Zaimont was approached about his behavior multiple times, but he’d “say we were being unfair and would threaten to quit – which would jeopardize our projects, and so people would back down. He’s also outright told us that he can’t and won’t change.”
Former senior animator Jonathan Kim also resigned from Lab Zero Games after 8 years and described how the “goal for Lab Zero was to become an employee-owned company, where everyone would have the equity and the workers would enjoy the benefits of their work.”
This goal was never reached, and Zaimont became 100% owner in March 2020.
Groundwork for giving all employees equity was in process until Zaimont’s issues in June 2020, when the team began an internal investigation and “soon realized that Mike’s behavior wasn’t just scattered incidents, but actually systemic signs of his overall behavior and attitude as an individual.”
Kim explained that “almost every employee had a story where Mike abused his position of power to put his coworkers in uncomfortable stressful situations for years, which include: frequently mentioning his genitals, forcing unwanted physical contact, making sexual comments about himself or about employee’s bodies, insulting coworkers privately or openly in front of other coworkers, or using very personal details to threaten or demean coworkers when they didn’t go along with what he wanted or act in a way he wished.”
Former artist Brian “EU03” Jun wrote how, due to Zaimont being the sole owner of Lab Zero Games, it was very difficult to remove him from the company.
Zaimont had entered negotiations for terms of separation while he was on administrative leave, but his terms “were unrealistically high and event potentially illegal to force onto the company and employees.”
Lab Zero’s board rejected his proposal, and Zaimont “reversed his stance and said he will not leave the company. He also removed all members of the board to assume full control of Lab Zero Games.”
He then, to the shock of Lab Zero’s employees, tried to re-engage in negotiations with mostly the same terms just a few days later.
These decisions by Zaimont, and the many allegations of abuse detailed above, caused these employees to resign and speak up about their experiences.
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