The Irish head of one of the world’s largest video game makers was fired for telling a female colleague that an internal company discussion shouldn’t be a matter of seeing ‘who has the bigger d**k’, the High Court has said.
He was fired six months after taking the €160,000-a-year job at Electronic Arts, which makes some of the world’s most popular video games including FIFA Soccer.
The American woman he was speaking to on a conference call made a complaint of sexual harrassment due to the comments.
Lawyers for Galway-based Jean Philippe Grenet told the High Court yesterday that his ‘clumsy’ remark was intended to mean that he didn’t want to get into a petty dispute and was in no way trying to make a sexual comment.
Jean-Philippe Grenet, former head of Electronic Arts, was fired six months after taking the €160,000-a-year job
He made the ‘unfortunate’ remark to a female American colleague over a video phone call in recent weeks and was swiftly sacked, his lawyers told the High Court.
The 56-year-old French native claims the US-based co-worker, referred to in court as ‘Ms S’, who complained about his conduct had a ‘negative attitude’ towards him ‘from the outset’ and was eyeing up his €160,000-a-year job, the court heard.
Mr Grenet has turned to the High Court in a bid to get his dismissal reversed and wishes to make a return to work as soon as possible.
He has already secured a temporary injunction to stop the company dismissing him – or appointing anyone else to his role – while his case is ongoing.
He was hired to run the Irish office of Electronic Arts, which makes a string of widely popular games for PlayStation and Xbox including the FIFA series and Rock Band.
He promptly moved his family to Ireland to take up the role in Ballybrit, Co. Galway, and there is ‘a lot at stake’ for him – including his good name and reputation, his barrister Oisín Quinn SC told the court.
Mr Grenet claims that Ms S, with whom he had weekly video calls, had applied for his job and wanted to ‘undermine my authority’, the court heard.
She felt his comment ‘amounted to sexual harassment’, Mr Quinn said.
Mr Grenet concedes that his remark was ‘clumsy, inelegant and ill advised’, but insists it was not to be taken literally.
Fifa 19 (left) and Madden NFL 10 – two of Electronic Arts’ popular games. The company makes a string of widely popular games for PlayStation and Xbox
There is a dispute over what he actually said during the call on November 9 last, the court heard.
Referring to another female colleague in the company, it was alleged that he told Ms S, who’s based in Texas, that he was ‘not going to pull my d*** out and put it on the table… to see who has the bigger d***’.
But Mr Grenet, who’s had a ‘long and successful career’ up until now, asserts that he actually commented that he didn’t want to ‘compare the length of my d***’ with the other colleague in question. He says he was first dismissed on November 14, having admitted that he’d used the word ‘d***’ during the November 9 video call.
The speed and nature of his dismissal amounted to a ‘disturbing breach of natural justice’, Mr Quinn SC told Judge Tony O’Connor.
Mr Grenet’s remark was ‘not a joke nor intended as such’, and was not directed at Ms S herself, Mr Quinn explained.
His client was in fact trying to illustrate to Ms S ‘that he didn’t want to be getting into a petty dispute’ with the other female colleague, Mr Quinn explained.
Mr Grenet, the company’s ‘most senior man in Ireland’, secured the job here after a four-month recruitment process and wants to stay here with his wife and children, it was heard.
He has ‘worked very hard to establish a reputation’, the court heard.
But he was subjected to a process that took a matter of days, ‘almost Spanish Inquisition’ style, and he was found guilty of ‘gross misconduct’, Mr Quinn told the court.
That was a ‘toxic type of label to attribute to anybody’, Mr Quinn pointed out.
It was wrong that ‘the only message being sent out to the public is that he’s done something seriously wrong’, Mr Quinn contended.
‘He is looking to return to work…He is substantially concerned with his reputation and is seeking to vindicate that,’ Mr Quinn added.
Mr Grenet relocated to Ireland because there was no such job of a similar nature available in France, and he would have ‘substantial difficulty obtaining alternative employment’ if his proposed dismissal is upheld, Mr Quinn told the judge.
The company contends it is entitled to fire Mr Grenet, who watched from the back of the courtroom yesterday.
The hearing continues.