The computer and video games arm of French union Solidaires has called for the dismissal Florent Castelnérac, the studio head of Ubisoft owned Nadeo. This follows allegations “of serious breaches of labor law as well as acts of moral harassment committed against people working and having worked in the company,” with Castelnérac at the heart of these accusations.
— Solidaires Informatique Jeu Vidéo (@SolInfoJeuVideo) September 11, 2020
This started on 24th August, when Solidaires made a call on Twitter and their website for people to come forward if they had witnessed or been victim of harassment in the workplace. This was then followed on 10th September with a report by Numerama (who were amongst the first to report on the issues at Ubisoft in June and July), detailing some of the specific allegations made against Castelnérac.
Numerama collected and published ten testimonials, both from employees at Nadeo and former employees, all of whom allege that Florent Castelnérac has bullied his subordinates at the studio, ranging from very public dressing downs to extended one-on-one “kitchen meetings”, stemming from an employees unwillingness to work overtime or on weekends, to critiquing Castelnérac’s ideas, or trying to leave Nadeo.
Castelnérac was asked for comment by Numerama and responded both for their report and later to the individual quotes found within. While he refutes the claims about pressuring employees to take on overtime, he acknowledges many of the specific situations described where he told one employee that they were “level 40” and he wanted them to be “level 112”, or asked another “Do you think your father would be proud of you?” However, he tries to explain these as misjudged attempts to motivate that were misinterpreted, and admits that he is loud and argumentative in tone, which could very easily lead to employees feeling intimidated.
One particular situation seems very odd with a source, Antoine, particularly unnerved and fearful of retribution. Castelnérac puts this down to an awkward situation where Antoine was part of inter-studio informing. Possibly related, Castelnérac was reportedly extremely dissatisfied with Trackmania Turbo’s direction, divorcing himself from the game’s development after it went in a direction he did not want to take, and with the game’s eventual director having a testy working relationship within the studio.
Through all of this, Nadeo has a degree of autonomy within Ubisoft with their own separate HR department and not tying in with the cross-studio hiring practices of Ubisoft as a whole. A running theme through all the allegations swirling has been the feeling that HR could not be relied upon to support employees and follow through on reports.
It’s a difficult one to unpick, but is on a very different level compared to some of the other allegations made at Ubisoft. Either way, Solidaires called for his dismissal on 11th September. The timing of this should not go unnoticed, coming the day after Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot made a public video statement about recent allegations made against Ubisoft employees, dismissals and actions being taken by the company.