Former Bungie employee Marty O’Donnell – known for his work on the iconic soundtracks of the Halo franchise – is reportedly suing Bungie chief executive Harold Ryan for damages following O’Donnell’s termination in April of this year. According to Washington Superior Court documents obtained by VentureBeat, O’Donnell is seeking double damages to compensate for unpaid benefits he is apparently owed; including unpaid vacation time, and paid time off.
Martin “Marty” O’Donnell sues former employer Bungie.
The court documents outline that Bungie has an existing policy and practice of paying such benefits to employees, and that O’Donnell claims that despite both Bungie and Ryan acknowledging this entitlement no payment has been forthcoming.
This comes almost exactly two months after O’Donnell was let go from the formerly Microsoft owned company. In a statement by Bungie at the time, the company “wish him luck in all his future endeavours” and commented that “Today, as friends, we say goodbye”. O’Donnell was more scathing in his response to the termination, making clear that his firing was “without cause“.
Whilst many news outlets at the time picked up on the significance of this “without cause” (because who doesn’t love a bit of drama?) the wording of this statement isn’t too peculiar in the US business sector. US employment laws make it clear that any commentary on a former employee is a grounds for legal action, if these comments impact the individuals likelihood of finding future employment. If an employer were to mention that a former employee was anxious, or overzealous, or argumentative for example, then this may deter other from hiring this worker.
As a result of this vulnerability to legal action most US employers will offer very little information as to the characteristics or behaviour of former employees, as any perceived negatives may harm the employee’s future employment. This has resulted in a corporate culture of “without reason”, a way for employers to describe the termination of employees without opening themselves to legal action.
The court documents uncovered by VentureBeat now shed new light on events revealing that this “without cause” was not just a public statement to avoid litigation, as O’Donnell argues that Bungie and specifically Harold Ryan gave no explanation to O’Donnell as to why this termination was necessary. If this is the case this revelation may well deal a blow to Bungie’s reputation, demonstrating such poor treatment of one of its most respected and renown (now former) employees.
O’Donnell is an outspoken defender of artist’s rights, and has spoken out against the poor treatment of creative types by greedy corporations. Likening creators to geese who lay golden eggs, O’Donnell notes big businesses often “mistake the golden egg for the goose that laid it”. He further commented in a somewhat prophetic 2011 interview that “Remember there are people in corporations and publishers, if they get tired of waiting around for your next golden egg, they’d just prefer to eat your liver”.
O’Donnell’s current twitter background depicting his goose/golden egg analogue.
In response to O’Donnell’s lawsuit Bungie has responded “denying the allegations” and is attempted to have the case “dismissed with prejudice”. The exact reason that O’Donnell was fired from Bungie remains a mystery, seemingly also to O’Donnell himself. Drawing from O’Donnell’s allegations and Bungie’s conflicting response speculation runs rampant. The fact that O’Donnell has identified Harold Ryan by name in his court documents, and seemingly holds Ryan accountable for not paying owed benefits is certainly interesting. As are references in the legal documentation that allude to further grievances between the two parties which are currently under arbitration.
No clear answer presents itself to the mystery of O’Donnell’s termination and the resulting fallout, though there is certainly more to this story than is currently known. This story shows all the signs of winding up closer and closer to an ugly showdown, which is a PR nightmare Bungie will want to avoid this close to E3 2014 and the launch of Destiny.
We’ll bring you more on this story as it develops.
Does O’Donnell deserve better treatment? Is Bungie right to seemingly deny these benefits? Does this affect how you view either party? Leave a comment below and let us know, and don’t forget to like and follow Gamer UK on Facebook and Twitter to be kept up to date on all the latest in video game news.