Gender discrimination called out at San Francisco-based gaming company

A female project manager at a San Francisco gaming company on Thursday filed a lawsuit in state court asserting that the company maintained a "toxic work environment" in which female employees "faced hostility and a multitude of adverse actions based on their gender."   

Haley Bowman, 33, of Ojai, filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court asserting a variety of state law claims against Super Free Games Inc., including counts for discrimination based on gender, for not receiving equal pay, and for being terminated while pregnant.   

Super Free makes gaming apps that include, according to the company, "some of the most beloved in the Word, Trivia, and Puzzle genres." It claims to have annual revenues of $150 million.   

The company's website boldly proclaims that "Our Team is Happy and Healthy" and touts its culture, emphasizing that "We believe in a flat management model, in which everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher."     

It says that it promotes from within and its employees average more than a four-year tenure with the company. The website goes on to say that "We DO make decisions as a team. We DO insist upon work-life balance."   

The careers section emphasizes that "We are NOT a bro culture."   

Bowman says that despite the happy talk, female employees encountered a clubby, male-dominated environment in which women were excluded from key meetings, received lower pay, and had more limited opportunities for advancement than their male counterparts.   

She calls out "cronyistic" hiring, outside-of-work social opportunities that excluded women, and retaliation against female employees who spoke out.   

She was initially hired in 2016 as a marketing project manager and promoted to senior project manager after four years. She says that she was "was everything you would want in an employee -- loyal, hardworking, and ambitious."   

In recognition of her work, her initial salary of $60,000 was increased to $110,000 over the period of her employment.   

She worked for Super Free for nearly six years until she was terminated in 2022 while two months pregnant.   


While Bowman's complaint lacks the lurid detail sometimes found in discrimination lawsuits, she describes a number of personal experiences to support the claims.   

At one point she reported to a man who was the subject of many complaints that "he did not know how to work with women" and when he gave another female employee more responsibility, he then expressed anger when she asked for more pay.   

Another boss did nothing when informed that Bowman and a female co-worker were left "out of important meetings on more than one occasion."   

She alleges that the hiring of a crony of a male manager resulted in a person with no marketing experience being made her boss.   

She says that one of the men on the management team "had inappropriate romantic relationships with female employees that reported directly to him."   

Bowman was frequently not consulted on marketing decisions that were a key part of her job and her complaints about exclusion by her male counterparts were ignored, according to the complaint.   

She says that in 2022, a committee with the forbidding name "Marketing Department Reduction in Force Committee" was appointed to address "growing concerns of disorganization, poor communication, and workforce flow inefficiency within the company."   

The committee, which included a number of the men she references in the complaint, concluded "that Ms. Bowman had poor communication issues and created a level of mistrust with UA."   

UA was a name for the user acquisition team. She says the UA team had no issues with her work.   

She was then asked to move from marketing to production, give up managerial responsibilities, and take a 20 percent pay cut. When she refused, she alleges that she was terminated even though she was two months pregnant and the company was aware of the fact.   

She says the firing was falsely portrayed to be part of a reduction in force.   

In a press release that accompanied the filing of her suit, Bowman's attorney said, "There is an absolute systematic issue in the gaming industry of prioritizing male-to-male friendships and male-to-male contacts and failing to nurture women's careers and women's ascension within the industry."   

A request for comment from Super Free about the lawsuit was not immediately returned.