Iconic Halo-inspired web series Red vs. Blue put online content company Rooster Teeth on the map. Over a decade later it’s branched out into gaming Let’s Plays, reality TV shows, and even anime, but it’s also increasingly the subject of allegations over an internal frat boy culture and toxic working conditions. Over the weekend, Rooster Teeth veteran ex-staffer Kdin Jenzen accused the company of overworking her, underpaying her, and fostering an environment in which she was repeatedly called a homophobic slur.
Jenzen, who worked at Rooster Teeth from 2013 to July 2022, said the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned content company pushed her to crunch for 16-hour workdays while paying her barely more than $40,000 a year. In addition to providing few opportunities to spend more time on camera and take on more leadership responsibilities at the company, she said that shortly after starting at the company she was given the nickname “F*gg*t,” which was referenced as “Fugz” when appearing on-screen. Jenzen came out as transgender in 2016, and she said only then was the nickname discontinued.
Jenzen shared the account of her time with Rooster Teeth in a TwitLonger post on October 15. Former personality and creative director, Gavin Free, admitted to being one of the people who used the offensive nickname. Co-founder and current producer, Geoff Ramsey, implied that he did as well. “The long and short of it is, I fucking sucked,” he Ramsey wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “I wasn’t funny. I failed you, and I continue to be sorry.” He said he apologized to Jenzen in 2016 and again in 2020. She responded to the Twitter apology by saying that she had called on him to address these issues publicly back in 2020 and he never did.
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“With all due respect I asked you in 2020 after Mica called you all out to address everything the company and those in power did to everyone,” Jenzen tweeted back. “You told me no. Saying bad words [is] one thing, everything else is on you and RT. Go pay, credit, and give proper benefits to your staff.”
Jenzen was referencing a 2020 tweet by actress and cosplayer Michaela “Mica” Burton, who left Rooster Teeth back in 2018. “I’ve been very quiet about my experience with RT, but with the now vocalization of regret of lack of support from my ex coworkers I can say with confidence I didn’t leave because of the community, I left because of the company,” she tweeted at the time. Following Jenzen’s post over the weekend, she wrote, “Seeing n***** written on a whiteboard wasn’t even close to my worst experience there.”
Yesterday Rooster Teeth put out its own lengthy statement in response to Kdin’s allegations. “2020 was a year of broad societal change that brought past conduct to our attention,” part of it read. “Many individuals at Rooster Teeth acknowledged personal responsibility for their past actions both internally and externally.” The company pointed to the hiring of a diversity, equality, and inclusivity consultant, as well as a “pay parity review” conducted in 2021.
The statement didn’t go into any specifics about who, if anyone, received any disciplinary action at the company over past or current allegations. It also didn’t specify whether Kdin received a raise as part of the pay parity review, or whether Rooster Teeth employees still regularly worked dozens of hours of unpaid overtime each week.
“We are committed to hearing every side of each dispute and operating within our authority to uphold the company’s values and behaviors,” the company wrote. “Out of respect for all parties, the company will not comment publicly on these matters.”
What Rooster Teeth did address was the recent issue of layoffs. The company lost 13 percent of its staff in 2019, and has seen more departures recently as parent company Warner Bros. Discovery slashes budget and projects across its portfolio. Streamer and Achievement Hunter contributor Matt Bragg revealed on October 14 that he had been laid off a few weeks ago.
“We had to make tough decisions to reduce a handful of roles in select departments to adjust to marketplace realities,” Rooster Teeth, which called “openness and transparency” critical to its growth, wrote in its new statement. Former contributor Alanah Pearce speculated in a recent YouTube video about working conditions at Rooster Teeth that these layoffs would only increase the unpaid workloads on remaining employees as they’re forced to pick up the slack. She also reiterated her own bad experience with working conditions there.
In the meantime, other current and former Rooster Teeth contributors have continued speaking up in support of Jenzen and about their own reportedly bad experiences working with the online entertainment brand. Fans are also demoralized, and actively discussing boycotts. Moderators on the subreddit for the RWBY anime, a Rooster Teeth production, recently reversed a ban on discussions of pirating episodes.
Rooster Teeth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.