Given the treatment that gay users of Microsoft’s Xbox receive, is it any surprise one of Xbox’s own employees says the company is rife with homophobia?
From banning gay gamers to letting openly gay gals get harassed on the Xbox Live service, the video game company’s record with the gays is far from stellar. Now a former Xbox designer says what users see online is similar to what’s going on beyond the scenes at corporate: Homophobic jokes are commonplace, peers pass around nasty notes, and there’s no rulebook when it comes to protecting against sexual orientation discrimination.
So Jamie Durrant is suing. For nearly $70,000.
Mr Durrant claims that mocking messages were circulated with headings including ‘I’m Jim and I’m Gay’, ‘Me and My Favourite Men’ and ‘Ladies Are Bad’. A message about ‘Fag Boy Jim’ was allegedly put up in the office’s shared kitchen. Mr Durrant earns £50,000-a-year designing video games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.
He claims that the firm did not have policies in place to deal with his complaints about homophobic harassment. Mr Durrant, of Godalming, Surrey, is suing Microsoft at London South Employment Tribunal for discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. He has been signed off sick for depression for seven months and is demanding £45,000 in compensation for lost earnings and injury to feelings.
[...] In legal papers submitted to the tribunal, Mr Durrant claimed that the abusive emails were first sent in January last year. He said: “I have never hidden my sexuality from the office and I felt this could be targeted at myself. This was not the first time there was homophobic content in the office. Previously, I had tried to deal with it myself. This time, I did not feel that I could.”
Mr Durrant said he complained to human resources chiefs that there was a “homophobic attitude” within Microsoft. He claimed he agreed with them not to raise a formal grievance for fear of creating an “uneasy atmosphere” in the office.
Instead, it was allegedly agreed that HR would email staff reminding them of “how to behave responsibly in a diverse office”.
Mr Durrant said he expected the email to be sent within a fortnight but months went by without anything happening. When he queried the delay, he says he was allegedly told that the firm would have to draw up new policies before any email could be sent. He said: “I was very surprised that Microsoft did not have any policies relating to this sexual orientation harassment.”
Mr Durrant claimed that he did not think HR chiefs were taking his complaint seriously.
He was allegedly asked to sign a document agreeing not to raise a formal grievance and confirming that he was happy his complaint was being dealt with. He said that he refused but it was agreed that Microsoft would post its anti-discrimination policy on the firm’s intranet for staff to see. Mr Durrant has accused Microsoft HR chiefs of “blatantly disregarding” and “obstructing” his complaint.
He said he was offered counselling but said: “I feel like they’re making out that I’m the one with the problem and not the homophobic aspects of the company.”
As for Microsoft’s side? They’re not commenting.