The French video-game developer Ubisoft is under investigation by the national watchdog for fair employment practices for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination in its Singapore branch - famous for games such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The Straights Times reports a statement from the TAFEP, stating that the watchdog received anonymous feedback on the 23rd of July containing links to media articles about allegations of workplace harassment and unfair treatment at Ubisoft’s Maritime Southeast Asian studio.
In response to this feedback, the TAFEP urged employees or anyone aware of any criminal conduct such as assault or sexual harassment to report to the police immediately.
The media links most likely contained the expose from Kotaku, which reported the studio’s alleged toxic work environment and include conversations with over twenty current and former employees following the fallout from the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard.
It appears that the apples don’t fall far from the tree, as Ubisoft’s Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, Montpelier and Paris, have all been accused of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination where some cases led to the dismissal of prominent executives. In addition, the internal handling of alleged sexual harassment and discrimination was recently criticised in an open letter of solidarity with the Activision Blizzard walkout.
Many are shocked by the revelation that the Singapore workplace environment is so toxic that:
“Ubisoft Singapore has always been kind of known [internally] to be one of the worst Ubisoft studios in terms of culture,” said one former developer at the publisher of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry. “People would visit [from other studios] and be like, ‘What the fuck is wrong here?’”
Sources told Kotaku that female employees would experience unwanted physical contact and that reported allegations to HR would be investigated for months, ending with little to no consequences for the accused. Racial discrimination towards local employees means that the Singaporean workforce has found it hard to break the “French ceiling” regarding career progression.
In response to Kotaku’s article on the Singapore studio, Ubisoft stated that Singaporeans or permanent residents filled 40 percent of expert and senior expert roles. “Our objective is to continue to increase Singaporean leadership through various programs including a dedicated management learning path to accelerate the development of new leaders.”
But an anonymous survey of 14,000 employees conducted back in October by a third-party research firm revealed that as many as 25 percent have seen or experienced workplace misconduct and that 20 percent claim they didn’t feel “fully respected or safe in the work environment.”
Darryl Long, Ubisoft Singapore and Ubisoft Philippines managing director, commented that “We have taken concrete action to formalise how misconduct is dealt with” after the report was published.
The Straits Times explains, the TAFEP has the power to force Ubisoft Singapore to change its workplace policies, and “employers may be tasked to carry out an investigation through interviews with affected parties and witnesses, and to review documented evidence.”
Police action or Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) could get involved.
According to The Straits Times, the TAFEP may also require that Ubisoft Singapore must implement new policies to prevent future workplace discrimination and sexual harassment incidents.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) could even get involved if discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion and language is concerned, as all offences would breach MOM’s Fair Consideration Framework.
Breaches in MOM’s framework would mean that Ubisoft could find themselves barred from applying for new or renewing foreign work passes for up to 24 months.
Cases of sexual abuse, such as molestation and rape, would be classed as a criminal offence meaning that the TAFEP would have to involve police investigation. Any employee found guilty of said actions could be jailed, fined, or even canned.
Offenders would also find themselves under legal recourse under the Protection from Harassment Act for sexual misconduct, including workplace bullying.
This leaves Ubisoft Singapore at the mercy of two possible routes; The Criminal route would involve a police investigation and report, which would end with penalties, fines and jail. While the Civil course involves legal action, where the accused would be sued for damages and protection orders demanded.
Mr Long expressed that the Singapore studio does not tolerate harassment, discrimination or misconduct of any kind. He adds that "I understand that Ubisoft Singapore has been mentioned in the news lately... I acknowledge that the studio has seen some challenges over the past decade and there is still work to be done about our studio culture."
Aijou will be keeping all news related to Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard sexual harassment and discrimination updated - so you can stay informed.