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Former Unity Exec Files Lawsuit Alleging CEO Sexually Harassed Her, Others

The former Unity vice president of global talent acquisition filed a lawsuit this week against the company and ten of its employees alleging sexual harassment from CEO John Riccitiello and others in management positions as well as retaliation for reporting it and unlawful termination.

In a statement to Variety, Unity denied the allegations found in the lawsuit.

“Unity intends to vigorously defend against the false allegations asserted by Anne Evans,” the company said. “Following a third-party investigation that surfaced facts that Evans engaged in serious misconduct and established multiple instances in which she demonstrated a gross lapse in judgment, Unity terminated her employment.”

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Anne Evans, a former senior director of recruiting for Unity, detailed that her time with the company was fraught with inappropriate comments from male management towards women. The most serious allegation involves Riccitiello allegedly attempting to lure Evans to his hotel room for sex and then telling her not to speak about it, according to the lawsuit document.

“During her time at Unity, Evans observed that the workplace was highly sexualized,” according to the lawsuit. “Company CEO, John Riccitiello, and other men in management positions spoke openly about women in a sexual manner, made sexist jokes, and flirted with and pursued sexual relationships with female employees and contractors. Soon after Evans joined Unity, Riccitiello began making inappropriate sexual comments to her. For instance, at The Battery (a private members-only club in San Francisco where both Riccitiello and Evans were members), Riccitiello would comment to Evans about how he thought the way she walked was ‘sexy,’ and how he could not believe she was a lesbian.”

The comments escalated to propositions for sex directed at Evans and other women, according to the lawsuit.

“On another occasion at The Battery where both Evans and Riccitiello happened to be present, Riccitiello propositioned Evans, asking her if she would like to go to his hotel room (he had recently separated from his wife and was living in a nearby hotel),” the lawsuit stated. “Evans declined the invitation. She later learned that Riccitiello then propositioned two of Evans’ direct reports who had been at the club to return to his hotel room for a ‘threesome.’ Those employees also rejected Riccitiello. The next morning, Riccitiello pulled Evans into a conference room at work and instructed her to not talk about the events from the prior evening. He also said that one of the two women had been trying to make a move on him; a statement that Evans knew to be untrue.”

Despite Evans refusing Riccitiello, he continued to pursue her sexually on a company trip, according to the filing.

“In March 2016, Riccitiello invited Evans to join him in Paris to meet the company’s team located there. As it turns out, that invitation was a pretext and Riccitiello’s actual goal was to proposition Evans for sex,” according to the lawsuit. “What Evans expected to be a team dinner in Paris turned out to be just her and Riccitiello. After dinner – at which Riccitiello ordered caviar and expensive champagne – he lured Evans to his hotel room. Once in Riccitiello’s room, he bluntly propositioned Evans for sex. After making a lewd reference to his erect penis, Riccitiello proclaimed: ‘I want to f— you. I want to throw you down on the bed and f— you.’ Looking for a way out, Evans suggested Riccitiello go down to the hotel bar and get them a bottle of wine. When he left the room on this errand, Evans quickly departed and avoided having any further contact with Riccitiello that night.”

Once again, Riccitiello told Evans to not speak of his sexual advances, according to the lawsuit.

“The next day at a brunch with the Paris Unity employees, Riccitiello pulled Evans aside and said to her: ‘It would be good for your career if you keep mouth shut about last night,’ “ according to the lawsuit. “Evans told colleagues about the events at the time, but did not report Riccitiello’s conduct because she feared retaliation after Riccitiello issued his warning to her.”

Riccitiello then told Evans twice more not to talk about the incidents after returning from the Paris trip and also asked her who she had told about what happened because he said that he felt her colleagues were either treating him or looking at him differently, according to the filing.

The lawsuit further alleges improper access of a company-wide survey regarding company culture changes and concerns from employees. One employee whom Evans believed did not have authorization was able to see the raw responses from employees, and wanted to speak to Evans about the survey, as detailed in the lawsuit.

The employee also said she wanted to share with Evans the responses from other employees that were made about Evans and her colleagues. The employee read these comments while outside of the company with another employee, who had the raw survey results on her laptop, according to the lawsuit. Evans reported this to her supervisor, as she was concerned that it was improper access, violated company policy, and was potentially illegal, the lawsuit stated.

The employee was angry with Evans when she realized that Evans had reported the unauthorized access and threatened her with retaliation, according to the lawsuit. That employee later made a sexual harassment claim against Evans (the two previously had a consensual sexual relationship, according to the filing) which was ultimately dropped.

However, when Evans was told that she had been cleared of sexual harassment charges, she was also informed that the company learned that she accepted gifts from the employee she was previously in a relationship with, according to the filing. Evans was then terminated because this is in violation of company policy— though the lawsuit stated that this is not true.

Further, it is stated in the lawsuit that Evans was never informed of such a policy and that she saw others at the company giving and accepting gifts.

Evans further alleges that Chief People Officer Elizabeth Brown was in a sexual relationship with Riccitiello since 2016, who frequently gave Brown expensive gifts including a watch which cost more than $40,000 and a $3 million house, as detailed in the lawsuit.

When Evans addressed the relationship between Brown and Riccitiello to Unity General Counsel, she was told she can file a complaint with the Board, according to the lawsuit.

Variety was informed by a source with knowledge of the company that Brown and Riccitiello previously disclosed their relationship to the Board. Further, it was noted by the source that Brown does not report to Riccitiello and instead reports to the chair of the compensation committee. 

It is further noted in the lawsuit that Evans expressed on a company survey that she felt she had nowhere safe to go with complaints, and when discussing with her peers they expressed similar concerns.

Unity told Variety that the termination was an “undesirable outcome for Evans, and we had been working with her on the details of her departure when she filed a public lawsuit that includes false and damaging claims against the company, our CEO and a number of our employees. Before and throughout the investigation, Evans had multiple opportunities to share her concerns about her experiences at the company through confidential and objective mechanisms, yet never did. We take these issues seriously at Unity, just as we did when we learned about concerns involving Evans. We do not tolerate harassment, and we have policies in place to address relationships in the workplace.”

In a letter sent to staff Wednesday and obtained by Variety, Unity told employees that the company had been working with Evans on the details of her departure when she filed the lawsuit which “includes false and damaging claims against Unity, its employees and John, in particular.

“Before and throughout the investigation, Anne had multiple opportunities to share her concerns about her experiences at the company,” according to the internal email. “As with all of our employees, Anne also had access to a number of objective, confidential resources through which to voice her concerns, including an anonymous reporting mechanism. None of these allegations were brought forth until the filing of this complaint.”

Here’s the full letter sent to employees:

I wanted to let you know about a legal case that was filed Wednesday in San Francisco against Unity. The case was filed by Anne Evans, our former Vice President of recruiting. The complaint is filled with false allegations, and we intend to defend against the lawsuit vigorously.

Importantly, several months ago, we conducted a third-party investigation involving Anne’s behavior during her employment. The investigation surfaced facts that she engaged in serious misconduct and established multiple instances in which she demonstrated a gross lapse in judgment and this led to her termination. This was an undesirable outcome for Anne, and we had been working with her on the details of her departure when she filed a public lawsuit that includes false and damaging claims against Unity, its employees and John, in particular.

Before and throughout the investigation, Anne had multiple opportunities to share her concerns about her experiences at the company. As with all of our employees, Anne also had access to a number of objective, confidential resources through which to voice her concerns, including an anonymous reporting mechanism. None of these allegations were brought forth until the filing of this complaint.

We are well prepared for the next steps in this legal matter and also expect it to become public, so I wanted you to know first.  If you have questions or concerns about any of this, please reach out to me. If anyone from the press contacts you, please refer them to Marisa Graves in PR.

We take these issues seriously at Unity, just as we did when we learned about concerns involving Anne. We don’t tolerate harassment here, and we have policies in place to address relationships in the workplace. These are issues we discuss with all of you so that you know and trust the resources available to you, and we are committed to continuing to do so. As you know, you can also always come directly to me.

Thank you,

Ruth Ann Keene

Riccitiello joined Unity’s board of directors in 2013 and became the company’s CEO in October 2014. Prior to his time at Unity he served as CEO and president of Electronic Arts and co-founded Elevation Partners, which later sold Bioware and Pandemic Studios to EA.

You can read the full lawsuit filed on Wednesday below:

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