Mike Z Lays Off Everyone At Lab Zero Games
Although Lab Zero Games continues as a business entity, it has a skeleton staff of just one person: co-founder and owner Mike Zaimont. Everyone else at the Skullgirls studio has either quit or been laid off after accusations were leveled at Mike Z for creating an “unsafe work environment.”
Allegations arose last month when a number of former Lab Zero employees announced their departures on social media, often with lengthy statements explaining their situations and the inner turmoil at Lab Zero as a direct result of Mike Z’s actions. Employees accused Mike Z of making racist jokes, verbally abusive behavior, and sexual misconduct.
Brian Jun, a former art producer at Lab Zero, accused Mike Z of “putting others in extremely uncomfortable situations as well as exerting his position of power to demean and control employees.”
“This was a clear pattern of systemic abuse and lack of empathy while […] refusing to accept feedback and not showing a willingness to change,” he added.
Jun also explained the actions taken by Lav Zero employees to attempt to force Mike Z’s resignation. Employees and the Board of Directors all entered into negotiations for Mike Z to depart the indie developer, but Mike Z’s “terms were unrealistically high and even potentially illegal to force onto the company and employees.”
The board rejected Mike Z’s terms and negotiations broke down. After that, Mike Z announced he would not leave the company and instead removed all members of the board to assume full control of Lab Zero Games. He then offered the same terms for his departure a few days later.
With no other option, the majority of Lab Zero’s staff quit near the end of August. Those that did not leave of their own accord were fired by Mike Z soon after.
According to former Lab Zero animator Jonathan Kim, who resigned on August 24, Mike Z has laid off all remaining Lab Zero staff and has not offered severance terms. This comes in response to a tweet from artist Mariel Kinuko Cartwright who announced she would be selling a new sketchbook online to financially assist laid-off Lab Zero employees.
One suspects a class-action lawsuit is the next step in the ongoing Lab Zero drama.
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