Nintendo of America Reportedly Rife with Sexual Harassment

Nintendo of America CEO Doug Bowser.
Nintendo of America CEO Doug Bowser. / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

Nintendo of America has been described as a hostile work environment for female contractors in a report published Tuesday by Kotaku.

In speaking to 10 former contractors for Nintendo, Kotaku revealed a pattern of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment at the company. One former employee described reporting an instance of sexual harassment to her managers at Aerotek, the contracting firm responsible for her placement, and ultimately being warned to be "less outspoken." The offending coworker was a full-time Nintendo employee, so Aerotek could not discipline him. Nintendo made him attend sexual harassment training.

Contractors described a power imbalance between them and full-time employees, referred to as "red badges" for the red stripe on their ID cards. Promotions from contract work to full-time employment were rare, and based on opaque criteria rather than hard metrics; at least one woman was paid significantly less than a male coworker with less experience; and promotions appeared tied to favoritism at best, and romantic interest at worst.

"Your chance [of being converted to full time] was probably worse as a girl," said one former product tester. "It's usually guys [who get promoted]. They're usually all friends. They watch the Super Bowl together."

"There was lots of favoritism, cronyism," said another former contractor. "The assumption was that if a woman was doing well, it was because she was friends with the right people."

A third employee said red badges would trawl the contractors for potential romantic partners.

"If you were approached by a red badge, and they appeared to be making moves on you, [other women said that] you didn't want to dissuade them too hard," she said.

One former female contractor said a senior tester stalked her from July 2011 to February 2012, but because he was "friends with the right people," she didn't feel safe telling the contracting company about his behavior.

"He said verbatim that he would get me fired if I reported it," she said.

Nintendo of America CEO Doug Bowser acknowledged Kotaku's latest report hours after publication, telling employees, "We have strict policies designed to protect our employees and associates from inappropriate conduct and expect full compliance with these policies by all who work for or with us.

"We have and will always investigate any allegations we become aware of, and we are actively investigating these most recent claims."

A Kotaku report on working conditions at Nintendo of America, published in April, also prompted internal acknowledgement from Bowser, who re-affirmed the company's zero-tolerance policy for misconduct. IGN published its own report in May further detailing the company's culture, and Nintendo of America has been the subject of two complaints to the National Labor Relations Board this year. The first, filed in April, accused the company of interfering in unionization efforts. The second arrived last week carrying similar accusations, which it also leveled at Aston Carter (as Aerotek is now known).

Neither Nintendo nor Aston Carter has issued a public comment on Kotaku's reporting.