Rooster Teeth, Warner Bros. Discovery’s fandom, sci-fi and gaming entertainment division, came under fire from a former employee who said she was mistreated during her time at the company — including being verbally harassed and severely underpaid.
Kdin Jenzen, who worked at Rooster Teeth from 2013 until leaving earlier this year, published a 2,257-word blog post Saturday detailing her experience at the company. Jenzen was a producer and director who mainly worked in RT’s Achievement Hunter games group.
Within a few weeks of starting at Rooster Teeth, Jenzen wrote, “Every day I came into work I was called ‘Fggt’ — but they could not use that name in content so when anyone was recording I was called ‘Fugz’ instead.” Janzen said they reported the use of the nickname for years to HR, but “nothing was ever done about it.”
“Any time I brought up mistreatment or that ‘making fun of people in content only encourages the community to hate us’ — I was waved away saying ‘IT’S JUST A JOKE! Ignore the comments!’” she wrote.
In 2016, after Janzen came out as trans, whereupon “things got worse” inside Rooster Teeth. While coworkers stopped calling her “Fugz,” during that time “my acting manager began to harass me and lie to the community any time I was ‘planned to be on camera and couldn’t show up.” According to Jenzen, after reaching out to HR to resolve the problems, “The way I was treated did not change at all and actively became worse.”
In addition, Jenzen said they were unpaid for voiceover work they did from February to November 2013 while at RT, including voicing May Marigold for the company’s “RWBY” anime-style series. Jenzen said she was underpaid compared to coworkers and industry standards. “I still am recovering from this debt now as Rooster Teeth has been underpaying me for years, my raises were frozen by my manager at the time, and because of that I never received a proper raise even up until I quit earlier this year,” wrote Jenzen, who uses she/they pronouns. Until the end of 2020, Jenzen said, they were paid around $40,000 per year as a producer/director — which was almost $30,000 less than “the lowest-paid person next to me.”
Jenzen said her hours at Rooster Teeth at one point were routinely 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., and that demands on employees grew even more extreme during the COVID pandemic.
“Handful of good people. Bad Company,” Jenzen concluded in the post.
In a statement released Sunday, Rooster Teeth said, “We are disheartened to hear of anyone who has experienced pain resulting from prior experiences working at Rooster Teeth and support the resolution of interpersonal conflicts through direct and honest dialog.”
Rooster Teeth acknowledged that since its inception in 2003 “we have faced inevitable mistakes and interpersonal challenges” and said, “Many individuals at Rooster Teeth acknowledged personal responsibility for their actions both internally and externally.”
In response to Jenzen’s post, Rooster Teeth co-founder Geoff Ramsey shared a long message on Twitter apologizing to Jenzen. “The long and short of it is that I fucking sucked,” Ramsey wrote. “I was a shitty, self-loathing poor excuse for a ‘comedian,’ who only knew how to express myself by externalizing that feeling under the guise of edgy comedy.” He said he didn’t “fully understand this about myself until I got sober.” Ramsey said he had apologized privately to Jenzen in 2016 and 2020.
In its statement, Rooster Teeth said it has undertaken several steps in the last two years “to advance structural improvement.” “Our dedication to change has included the valuable input of many team members across the company, Kdin being one, and we’re grateful for their collaboration,” RT said.
Meanwhile, Rooster Teeth confirmed reports that it recently made layoffs. “[W]e had to make tough decisions to reduce a handful of roles in select departments to adjust to marketplace realities,” the company said, adding that the cuts “do not amount to a significant reduction in overall employee headcount.”
Rooster Teeth is a division of Warner Bros. Discovery, following Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia earlier this year. Rooster Teeth has been led by general manager Jordan Levin, a veteran TV exec, since September 2019.
Read Rooster Teeth’s full statement:
As an almost 20-year-old company that started in the earliest days of online video and grew rapidly alongside the rise of internet culture, we have faced inevitable mistakes and interpersonal challenges. 2020 was a year of broad societal change that brought past conduct to our attention. Many individuals at Rooster Teeth acknowledged personal responsibility for their actions both internally and externally. We as a company took that moment to seize the opportunity to respond and improve.
Over the last two years, we’ve spoken about challenges with the community, pledged to do things better, and implemented internal actions to advance structural improvement. Specifically, we began by bringing in new leadership to drive this internal work. This led to engaging a DEI consultant, a management firm specializing in cultural growth and workplace change, outside HR support, and external management training consultants. In addition, we engaged an outside compensation tool in 2020 to review our internal pay bands and completed our initial pay parity review in 2021. As our organization continues to evolve, this will be an ongoing exercise and continual effort.
Our dedication to change has included the valuable input of many team members across the company, Kdin being one, and we’re grateful for their collaboration. We have held ourselves accountable, and everyone in the organization has committed to establishing the Rooster Teeth Way — a comprehensive and aspirational set of values and behaviors anchored by our purpose and vision — carefully crafted with the input of the entire company. These values are reinforced by workshops and management training, employee business resource groups (BRGs), increased channels for feedback, both direct and anonymous, and immediate action when warranted.
Leadership, management, and personnel across the company have evolved over the past two decades to build what we believe is a safe, secure, and inclusive workplace. We are disheartened to hear of anyone who has experienced pain resulting from prior experiences working at Rooster Teeth and support the resolution of interpersonal conflicts through direct and honest dialog. New leadership has worked to address and investigate past conduct, acknowledging that mediation is complex and doesn’t guarantee a perfect solution.
We are committed to hearing every side of each dispute and operating within our authority to uphold the company’s values and behaviors. Out of respect for all parties, the company will not comment publicly on these matters. Many employees who have voiced past grievances choose to continue working with us, and we continue to encourage them to share their stories as they wish.
Acknowledging employee turnover, we are not immune to the disruptive forces that affect every business and workplace today. Like many other companies, we are experiencing people leaving to pursue different career paths and opportunities, while others are making bigger life changes. Additionally, external economic pressures have impacted some of our business units. As a result, we had to make tough decisions to reduce a handful of roles in select departments to adjust to marketplace realities.
While these targeted actions do not amount to a significant reduction in overall employee headcount, it is still difficult to have to lay off anybody at any time. Since our work is largely project-based, as different shows and channels get created and come to an end, we hope to continue working with many of these people in the future. We are proud of the work they have done and also proud of being a place where artists and entertainers have unusually long tenures in the world of entertainment. Some of them are already working on new projects you will see soon.
Openness and transparency are critical to our growth and dedication to doing better. We cannot imagine this is easy for anyone in our community to be reading and hope that even if you’re questioning your support, it will remain with the people that you met through the shared interest of who we are. We genuinely believe in the progress our team has made over the past two years, and stand by our words and our actions, pointing to the work we have done and continue to do to acknowledge past transgressions, though the work is not done. As we mature in our 20th year, we will continue to move forward together as a passionate, creative company and community with open hearts and minds.
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