After the wave caused by the cancellation of Roe v. Wade last week, many American companies, including the video game industry, let their employees know that they will get health and travel assistance in the event of an abortion. A clear position, but not in the case of Bethesda Games Studios, with employees unhappy with the company’s response.
Image credit: ZeniMax / Bethesda Games Studios
A little, but not a lot
The annulment of Roe v. Wade means that each US state can establish its own laws on the right to abortion. And as long as you follow the news, it won’t have escaped you that several states have subsequently announced that they are implementing a ban on abortion, sometimes on conditions.
Several employees at ZeniMax Media and Bethesda Games Studios have expressed their dissatisfaction with their employer’s lack of position and transparency, particularly what they see as these companies’ reluctance to support employees. And when you know that a lot of Starfield or Redfall developers are in states with anti-abortion laws, that’s a major issue for Bethesda.
ZeniMax Media is a publisher with solid infrastructure in Texas. The latter is one of the American states with very restrictive anti-abortion laws. We can mention Bethesda Austin and Arkane Austin, who is currently developing Redfall, or iD Software, whose studios are north of Dallas.
The pressure increases on the management of the company, but also internally as moral conflicts also divide the employees. Kotaku reports, for example, an incident on Slack, a workspace dedicated to employee exchange, in which a Bethesda employee expressed his dissatisfaction and his position in favor of abortion laws. A topic that has since been shut down and cleared by a Bethesda executive, asking employees to keep religion and politics out of this channel.
The decision on Roe v. Wade went public last week, but it’s been about seven weeks since the American public learned of a potential change, which is sure to spark several outbursts. This is what prompted a group of Bethesda employees to write and send a letter to the ZeniMax administration, asking them to take a stand on the event and their employees’ ZeniMax health rights.
As more and more ZeniMax employees see their rights threatened, more of us are asking to know if our employer will support us, as competitors come forward in support of their workers, company silence remains unforgivable and contrary to declared values from the company.
It took nearly two months for the group to receive a response, in the form of a message on Bethesda’s official Twitter account: “NWe believe that the ability to make choices about one’s body and lifestyle is a human right. “
Except that by doing so, Bethesda has created another controversy with homosexual or transgender employees, pointing the finger at the wording of the sentence, including the use of the words “lifestyle choices.” Because it suggests, according to them, that employees’ sexuality or gender identity is a matter of choice.
A frustration that has not failed to react Jamie Leder, COO of ZeniMax, with an email to his employees:
I want to apologize for any offense caused by the previous communication and reassure you that we will continue to protect our employee options and access to essential health care as we continue to move forward.
The group of female workers continues to express their discontent at the company’s lack of clarity regarding the health rights of employees. Microsoft, which bought ZeniMax, has already indicated that it will support its employees on travel in the event of an abortion decision. Except that to the extent that ZeniMax has not been absorbed by Microsoft, their leaders may very well not follow the same position. This increases the tensions even more, with a request from female employees who want a safety plan to be put in place to ensure a non-discriminatory atmosphere for pregnant employees, the establishment of a health plan that gives access to contraceptives, the ability to negotiate relocation and host staff in accordance with local state laws.
In another email, Jamie Leder said that ZeniMax would discuss with their US health care provider to improve the benefits for employees who may have to travel for medical services. Speech considered unsatisfactory by the employees of the company, who believe there is a clear lack of precision on the part of their employer.