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Former Cards Against Humanity employees allege “toxic working culture” at party game company

Writers share experiences under hashtag #CAHisOver, but company refutes them all.

Cards Against Humanity board game box
Image credit: Cards Against Humanity

Update 23/6/20: Cards Against Humanity has now issued a public statement in response to the allegations of a "toxic work environment" reported below.

Former employees of Cards Against Humanity have accused the party card game company and its founders of toxic working culture, including allegations of racism and sexism. The company refutes all of these allegations, saying that there is little or no truth in them, but declined to give Dicebreaker a formal statement of denial or explanation.

On June 6th, Theresa Stewart, who worked at the company from November 2016 into 2017, posted an account of her experiences to Twitter under the hashtag #CAHisOver. Stewart posted screenshots of an internal Slack conversation between Cards Against Humanity employees responding in an “aggressive manner” to her request to thread messages in the Slack channel, as well as saying that she was then “made fun of” by other employees.

Stewart alleged that following the incident, “I was a social pariahs [sic] to all of [Cards Against Humanity headquarters] @someoffice. People who I had been working with for months stopped speaking to me or asking me to eat lunch with them for about 3 days.”

Stewart, who said she was the “first black/queer black woman employee” at Cards Against Humanity, also posted images of email exchanges raising the incident and the issue of “casual racism and sexism” with the company’s office manager, a complaint that she claims was brushed aside.

“In every meeting and interaction I have had in this office I am ignored, erased, and shut down and it has created a hostile work environment for me,” Stewart wrote in the email.

Following the email, Stewart said that “Instead of putting anything in writing, he [the office manager] asked me to meet him IRL [in real life]. His response? “well, tone is lost in digital comm. let me ask others (re: all the white people who piled on and have been racist to me for months) how they felt about what happened.”

Stewart said that no further action was taken: “No one was talked to and there was not even the obligatory, maybe we should take D&I [diversity and inclusion] seriously. Nothing.”

Stewart alleged that, as part of the Cards Against Humanity Saves America event in 2017, the company proposed “redistributing wealth to black people” as part of a “day dedicated to reparations”. Stewart claims that it was suggested that the company would provide a limited number of Black people with one-time cheques for $20.

“$20 for 400 years of abuse and subjugation,” she wrote in the tweet.

“I, along with a white co-worker, wrote them to express why the day was problematic,” Stewart added alongside a screenshot of the email. “Not only did they not address me (even though I signed it), Max [Temkin, Cards Against Humanity co-founder] tried to defend the day because the founders are Jewish and paid for their college and such from Holocaust reparations and that is why it was important to them.”

The final 2017 Cards Against Humanity Saves America event itself included a day titled “Cards Against Humanity Redistributes Your Wealth”. The company’s description said: “We gave 10,000 people a $15 refund and 100 people a check for $1,000.”

Stewart said she left Cards Against Humanity “a few months later”, and added that the allegations she had made on Twitter were “just a couple incidents” experienced during her time at the company.

Following Stewart’s allegations, which are denied by the company, former writer, editor and project manager Elaine Short posted a series of tweets accusing Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin of “exerting” “control [...] over my personal, physical and romantic life” during her time working under him in 2013. Short, the veracity of whose tweets are also questioned by the company, was the first employee at Temkin’s company Maxistentialism, Inc., the design studio responsible for creating Cards Against Humanity. Short was the sole employee under Temkin for the majority of her three-month contract at the company, and the first person brought in to work on Cards Against Humanity.

“I was told if I continued dating a person Max’s friend had a crush on, I’d be fired,” Short wrote. “I was 25, this was my second professional job in Chicago, and I didn’t just feel powerless, I felt humiliated…"

She then added: “I sustained a weird, forced flirtation conversation over the phone with one of the founders - not Max [...] I had no idea what to do but sit through it.

“When Max confronted me about dating someone (again, not a coworker), who leased a desk space in the same office, Max polled everyone in the office if they were “comfortable” with it.”

Nico Carter, who posted on Twitter experiences of his time working as a staff writer at Cards Against Humanity from February 2016 to September 2018, alleged that there were attempts to include “the N-word” in the card game and accused the company of firing him a number of months after he made a complaint about its inclusion.

“The Writer's room was informed sometime mid-late 2018 that the N-word had made it to the final stages of admission to the game but been vetoed by the writer's room head writers and I believe [Cards Against Humanity co-creators] Eli Halpern and David Munk,” Carter told Dicebreaker via email. “The rest of the eight or so owner-writers had been in favour of the card, which had been added to their "short-list" of cards.

“The room was really concerned about the fact that the card had gotten so close to being in the game, and [it] felt like there was a danger of the owners using the room's diversity to justify publishing racist material. Max Temkin ran a meeting at some point in July or August and I had a chance to ask him questions about it. I think I had a sense that the questions made him uncomfortable and that he felt embarrassed about the encounter.”

In its defence, Cards Against Humanity said that the card submitted, reportedly one of 100 submitted by that particular writer, contained the words “saying the N-word” and provided Dicebreaker with documentary evidence that, at the time, Carter appeared to thank Temkin over the stance taken in rejecting the card.

Carter, who also represented the company as part of improv comedy shows at conventions and events, alleged that he suffered a backlash for “raising a ruckus about the unethical, racist way the predominantly white, upper-middle class room was approaching writing the game”.

“[They] fired me a couple weeks later.”

All of Carter’s allegations are strenuously denied by Cards Against Humanity.

Media critic and executive director of non-profit organisation Feminist Frequency Anita Sarkeesian published a Medium post supporting Stewart’s allegations and commenting on the workplace culture at Cards Against Humanity. Sarkeesian is not a former employee of Cards Against Humanity, but said she had previously “worked out of the CAH office while in Chicago”. (Dicebreaker reached out to Sarkeesian for further comment but received no reply before publication.)

“Workplace abuse and gaslighting is a part of the culture at CAH,” Sarkeesian wrote. “Things are worse for those Max has direct power over, and they are worst of all for his female employees. [...] Women he has employed, and especially women of colour, are legitimately afraid of having their careers sabotaged by speaking out against him. There is a very real, very deep fear of speaking up.

“Critically, this goes beyond just Max: this is the entire culture of the company. Racist and sexist behaviours from the top down have created a toxic environment.”

As part of the same post, Sarkeesian apologised, saying: “My passivity and continued silence contributed more tangible harm.”

When approached by Dicebreaker regarding the public and freely available allegations cited in this article, a Cards Against Humanity representative repeatedly refuted all the allegations but declined to give a formal statement to Dicebreaker.

Dicebreaker also reached out directly to Temkin and other owners of the business with repeated requests for comment in response to the allegations made in this article under the #CAHisOver hashtag, but received no reply from any individual owner before the publication of this article.

Following the allegations, Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo - also known as C2E2 - announced that it would no longer be working with Cards Against Humanity. The event had previously hosted The CAH Comedy Theater, a comedy show curated by Cards Against Humanity. (Full disclosure: C2E2 is owned by Dicebreaker parent company ReedPop.)

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