Remember that community translation drama on Steam? Former Valve employee files a $3.1 million lawsuit over wrongful dismissal. The suit also alleges employee misclassification and a hostile work environment. Read the suit here – it claims that the employee’s primary responsibility was translating content into Spanish, although she also served as a liaison with law enforcement in Spanish-speaking countries and worked in customer service as well.
In 2012, she elected to undergo gender transition surgery, which required a move to Los Angeles. Valve accommodated the request and allowed her to work from home, but only under the condition that she be reclassified as an independent contractor, rather than a conventional employee. Her duties would remain the same.
At some point after moving to Los Angeles, the plaintiff filed a complaint with Valve’s human resources “about their unfair business practice of utilizing people interested in their products to provide translation services for free.” The people in question “worked hours upon hours based on promises that their work could lead to a paid position,” but it never actually did.
Shortly after filing a written complaint about the practice in January of this year, the plaintiff was fired, allegedly because her job was being moved back to Washington. But when she offered to relocate, the suit claims, she was refused.
“The real reason for termination was that Plaintiff was complaining about the hostile work environment and illegal business practices as stated above,” the lawsuit states. “Moreover, Plaintiff was terminated due to her transgender status. While Defendants accommodated her at first, her direct supervisor, referred to her in a derogatory fashion. He referred to Plaintiff as ‘it,’ which is highly offensive to a transgender person.”
The transgender slurs are obviously the most visibly troubling allegation in the suit, but as Game Informer points out, the claim of misclassification could be what really bites Valve in the ass. The classification left the Plaintiff facing higher tax and insurance rates, and ineligible for unemployment and disability benefits, but it could also expose Valve to some serious unpleasantness courtesy of the IRS.
It’s not enough to simply declare that an employee is an independent contractor and call it a day; specific guidelines must be met in order for the classification to be valid, and as the IRS website warns, companies who do so with “no reasonable basis… may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker.”
More info should be available in the original article on PC Gamer soon I guess.