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Former Employee Sues PlayVS for Alleged Pregnancy Discrimination, Wrongful Termination

According to the L.A. County Superior Court complaint, the former QA analyst claims she was fired the day she returned from pregnancy leave.

A female former employee is suing high school esports organizer PlayVS for alleged discrimination and wrongful termination related to her pregnancy, according to a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 9.

Rachel Waynick, a former quality assurance analyst at PlayVS, claims that after she disclosed she was pregnant, the company discriminated against her, placed her on a performance improvement plan for no valid reason and eventually fired her. 

According to the complaint, Waynick told her manager about her pregnancy on June 10, 2021, and the company placed her on the performance improvement plan (PIP) on June 11. Waynick then complained to human resources, who she claims dismissed her concerns and set “unattainable goals” for her PIP. Waynick says that after her complaint to HR, she received unfair treatment and hostility in the workplace.

"In retaliation for complaining about the illegal conduct, plaintiff was… subjected to heightened scrutiny, unfairly reprimanded and criticized, subjected to undesirable work conditions and terminated," the complaint reads.

Waynick’s doctor placed her on early pregnancy leave from July 23 to Aug. 16 due to pregnancy complications and workplace-related stress, according to the complaint. When she returned to work on Aug. 17, she says she found herself locked out of her computer, and later in the day, PlayVS terminated her. Waynick was still pregnant when she was fired, according to several former employees familiar with the situation.

Waynick alleges that PlayVS violated five counts of California labor law, including discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination. She is seeking unspecified damages and the recoupment of attorney’s fees.

Prior to her dismissal, Waynick worked at PlayVS for seven months. Her attorneys at Stevens & McMillan declined to comment. Representatives for PlayVS did not respond to a request for comment.

The suit is the latest in a recent string of controversies for PlayVS. 

On March 30, Upcomer reported on the company’s contentious relationships with non-profit organizations who also ran high school esports tournaments. 

On April 5, six former employees and one other told The Jacob Wolf Report that the company allegedly misled Epic Games in its partnership by allowing fraudulent players to compete in high school and college “Fortnite” tournaments. 

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that the company sent cease and desist emails to at least five other high school esports organizations and stated that it had exclusive licenses to games published by Activision Blizzard and Nintendo. Those two organizations told The Post that PlayVS does not hold exclusive licenses to run high school esports tournaments for their games.

In response to those stories, PlayVS founder and CEO Delane Parnell denied all allegations of wrongdoing and accused both The Jacob Wolf Report and The Post of purposely publishing inaccuracies in order to gain subscribers

Parnell first developed the company’s business plan in 2017 while a part of an incubator program at Los Angeles-based Science Inc. He then founded the company in 2018 and struck gold on his first partnership: an exclusive deal with the National Federation of State High School Associations, the body responsible for governing sports for more than 18,500 high schools in the U.S.

It has also raised $106 million from investors such as New Enterprise Associates, Los Angeles Dodgers-ownership-backed Elysian Park Ventures, the San Francisco 49ers and the SoftBank Innovation Fund. The company is valued at more than $400 million, according to Parnell.