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With Telltale Games unexpectedly firing the vast majority of its workforce last week, at least one former employee of the company is demanding compensation in the form of a class-action lawsuit. Depending on the how things turn out, this could mean that the studio is responsible for paying its former employees the severance packages they have reportedly been denied.
The folks over at Polygon have picked up on a class-action lawsuit filed Monday by former Telltale employee, Vernie Roberts. Roberts' claim hinges on the worker Adjustment and Retaining Notification Act, better known as the WARN Act. The WARN Act was first passed into law back in 1988, but California's more strict statewide version was passed back in 2003.
Telltale Studios operates out of a suburb of San Francisco, where the WARN Act holds that there are certain guidelines that must be followed in the event of a plant closure or mass layoff. In brief, the WARN Act in California pertains to companies of at least 75 full-time or part-time employees and targets firings of at least 50 employees. Under those circumstances, a company must provide notice of 60 days before letting folks go.
Based on early reports, Telltale let upwards of 250 employees go last week, allegedly without warning. According to the class-action lawsuit, the number has been shifted to about 275. Initial reports also state that only about 25 members of the staff were kept on to finish work on Minecraft: Story Mode for Netflix. Future projects were canned and even the final season of The Walking Dead, which is now just two episodes into its four-episode series, was cancelled. There were reports earlier this week that Telltale was looking to work with outside partners to finish the series in one form or another, but no further details are available concerning those plans as of this writing.
Based on the WARN Act and if the lawsuit proves successful, Telltale would be responsible for reimbursing its employees for the time they were not compensated by the company. In other words, if they did not give staff the required 60-day warning, they might have to reimburse those 275-odd employees for two months' worth of back pay including benefits and taxes.
The lawsuit is requesting a trial by jury but, for now, that's about all of the details we have to report. I've done a lot of digging on various forums and social media and many individuals stating they were part of the company-wide layoffs have reported they were let go without prior notice. Many of those statements (and subsequent reporting) include claims that no severance was offered and that benefits run out at the end of the month, which occurs a little over a week from when the former staff were initially notified.