[Update] Former Naughty Dog employee says he was sexually harassed, fired, and offered $20K to keep quiet
"My work environment became extremely toxic afterward."
UPDATE: Naughty Dog has made an official comment on Ballard's sexual harassment allegations claiming they have "not found any evidence of having received allegations from Mr. Ballard." The full statement was posted to Naughty Dog's official website.
We have recently read on social media that an ex-employee of Naughty Dog, Dave Ballard, claims he was sexually harassed when he worked at Naughty Dog. We have not found any evidence of having received allegations from Mr. Ballard that he was harassed in any way at Naughty Dog or Sony Interactive Entertainment. Harassment and inappropriate conduct have no place at Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment. We have taken and always will take reports of sexual harassment and other workplace grievances very seriously. We value every single person who works at Naughty Dog and Sony interactive Entertainment. It is of utmost importance to us that we maintain a safe, productive workplace environment that allows us all to channel our shared passion for making games.
Original Story: Sexual harassment is never an easy topic to talk about, but it needs to be in the hopes that it can be eradicated. When we usually think about sexual harassment, we typically think of it in terms of it happening to women, which while prominent, isn't always the case. It happens to men too, and probably more than we know. Former Naughty Dog Environment Artist and Multiplayer Level Layout Artist David Ballard has come out with a very somber and scary account of his experiences with sexual harassment behind the scenes at the studio.
In a series of tweets, Ballard says he was sexually harassed by a Lead at Naughty Dog in late 2015, leading to what he describes as an "extremely toxic" work environment. Not long after, Ballard says he suffered a mental breakdown at work, and Sony's Human Resources department got involved.
Here's the scary part as those who were supposed to offer help, failed him as recounted by Ballard:
When I told them about the harassment they ended the call and fired me the next day. They cited the company was moving in a different direction and my job was no longer needed. They tried to silence me by offering $20,000 if I signed a letter agreeing to the termination as well as to not discuss it with anyone.
Ballard declined the offer and said he has been "unemployed for 17 months since." He's covered up his own experiences out of fear and feeling ashamed for what happened, attributing his departure in the public eye to being burnt out. However, after seeing people in TV and film come forward in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein investigations, Ballard says their strength gave him the courage to come forward.
Neither Sony nor Naughty Dog has come forward to comment on Ballard's tweets officially, but hopefully, that will change come Monday once everyone is back at work. Regardless of what happens from here, I think it goes without saying that we should all hope that Mr. Ballard has found some semblance of strength and peace in telling his story.