Amid ongoing discussions around safe, diverse, and inclusive workplaces in the games industry, Destiny 2 developer Bungie has decided to remove the mandatory arbitration clause from all of its employment contracts. This comes as part of the company’s ongoing efforts and transparency around fostering a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.
Bungie CEO Pete Parsons published a post today regarding those diversity, safety, and inclusion efforts. While he stops short of mentioning Activision Blizzard’s lawsuits specifically, Parsons does say “these past few months have been a sobering reminder for all of us as we hear and listen to the multitude of stories highlighting how good people across our industry have been mistreated.” He also mentions “recent news and conversations” have caused Bungie to do more looking inward about how they can do better by their employees.
Parsons highlighted a number of major actions Bungie has or is taking to foster a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace, starting at the top:
- As of 2021, members of underrepresented communities comprise 50% of Bungie’s board of directors. In addition, four of the nine representatives of Bungie’s executive team are women or members of Underrepresented Communities (URC).
- New Diversity and Inclusion focused hires:
- Chief People Officer Holly Barbacovi, who brings with her a track record of commitment to D&I initiatives.
- A deeply experienced D&I Director, who will build on the work initiated by former D&I Lead. When she begins her role in October, she will work with leadership teams, the Diversity Committee, inclusion clubs, and the full team to shape and influence Bungie’s future.
- Eliminating the mandatory arbitration clause in all of Bungie’s employee agreements, given the growing concern that arbitration may not be the fairest way to resolve employment complaints.
- Reviewing hiring practices and documents to ensure it doesn’t employ biased language or use unfairly subjective or unnecessary requirements, to foster applications from qualified women or URC candidates.
- Continue to invest in tools and processes that help to avoid bias in application reviews, and recruitment efforts all up, including identifying opportunities across early in career to more tenured level roles.
- Continue to invest in training and processes to help to avoid bias in our performance review, promotion, and compensation practices.
- In addition to existing reporting options at the company, adding an additional third-party, anonymous reporting tool which will be completely hosted by an external organization to further remove any hesitancy that Bungie employees might have to bring forward concerns.
Mandatory arbitration is a practice in which disputes between parties are handled outside of the court system, with a third-party “arbiter” making the final judgment. Many companies in the United States have mandatory arbitration as part of their employment contracts, initially conceived as a way to resolve disputes more quickly and efficiently than via court processes. However, criticism of mandatory arbitration says that it is often used to protect the company and doesn’t work in the best interests of employees looking to have disputes resolved. These clauses waive the legal rights of employees by forcing them to work through disputes with arbitration.
Bungie has always positioned itself as one of the more inclusive and diverse workplaces in the games industry, consistently finding employee-focused solutions that foster care for its employees. Removing the mandatory arbitration clause puts the power and trust back in the hands of the employees to safely and justly resolve any conflicts and disputes that may arise.
Parsons hopes that Bungie being open and transparent in having these conversations will also enable others in the industry to join in reflection and change.
I’m hoping that by being honest and transparent, and by having this conversation with you and other development studios and publishers out in the open, we can come together and collectively make this a better experience for everyone who chooses to contribute their talents to this industry. That other leadership teams may see and acknowledge that this isn’t just a challenge for us to collectively confront, but an opportunity to learn and grow.
While this is a difficult and challenging conversation, our industry needs to welcome it and see it for the opportunity that it is. We can do better, and not just to root out bad actors, but to examine our biases, our systems, and how we equip our people with the tools and teams they can trust to support them as they craft worlds and stories that inspire millions of people.
In addition to the lens on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Bungie also released information on how it is focusing on accessibility for players. Accessibility at Bungie joins Black at Bungie, Trans at Bungie, and Women at Bungie as the fourth inclusion club, and focuses on accessibility issues that Destiny players bring up, such as an upcoming way to enable auto-fire on non-automatic weapons or even providing mental health resources on the Bungie forums.
Designer Jonathan Barbeau said “Having a strong sense of empathy is an instrumental skill for a designer and, because of that sense, I don’t design for just one person or demographic. If everyone can’t enjoy what we’re making, we need to do better.” He sees the inclusion clubs at Bungie as “both a resource and advocate for positive change.”[Source: Bungie]