Ex-Employee Sues Zynga For Discrimination, Wrongful Termination

Zynga’s social gaming network is going gangbusters right now, reportedly pushing nine figures in revenue. But the company’s legal woes continue. A former Zynga employee named Robert Fulop has filed suit against the popular social gaming company for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the California statute that prevents employee discrimination.

The suit alleges that Zynga has discriminated aginst Fulop on the basis of age and disability, namely those tied to his request to temporarily reduce his work load in the time leading up to and following a heart operation. Fulop is seeking a total of $50,000 in lost compensation and general damages, along with further damages whose amount will be determined at trial. I’ve summarized the suit below and embedded the full document. It’s important to note that the suit obviously paints Zynga in a poor light (the company wouldn’t comment) so keep in mind that it is only one side of the story.

The suit revolves around the termination of Fulop a few months after he began working full time at Zynga, and soon after he informed the company that he would need some time off to undergo a heart procedure. According to the document, Fulop is a long-time game designer with over 30 years in the industry whose career began at Atari in 1979. He was recruited to join Zynga as a contractor from early August 2008 through late September, when he was brought on with Zynga as a full time employee.

A month later he began suffering chest pains (he had a prior heart attack in 2005) and went to the hospital for testing. Fulop notified his team leader that he would need to work from home and part-time for the weeks leading up to and following the operation. Nine days later, Fulop was terminated from that game’s team. According to the document, whether or not he was terminated from the company entirely remained unclear for weeks (he underwent his heart procedure in the mean time). He was terminated from the company soon after the operation.

From the document:

“… As soon as Plantiff informed Zynga of his medical condition and his need for accommodation, he was immediately terminated. Plaintiff’s request for accommodations was summarily ignored without any discussion whatsoever.”
“As a pretext for the termination, Plaintiff was informed that he was being terminated because there was no work for him. This pretext is belied by the fact that Plaintiff was terminated approximately five weeks after he was hired as an employee and by the fact that immediately after Plaintiff was terminated, Zynga sought to hire another person for Plaintiff’s exact position”

This isn’t Zynga’s only legal trouble. In February, the creator of Mob Wars sued the company for copyright infringement (Zynga’s game, Mafia Wars, is very similar).