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Life After Wizards (Again)—Part 2: The Tough Stuff

Yesterday, I talked a bit about how, ten years after being laid off by Wizards of the Coast, I came to be working for them again . . . or, at least, working in their offices again, this time as a contractor.

When I broke off, it was just after I received an offer of a full-time job that came with some problematic terms.

It should be clear to everyone that we were not able to resolve those problems. After all, if we had, I’d be a full-time employee of Wizards of the Coast, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. But I want to say, even before I explain what happened, that the staff of D&D RPG and the management of Wizards R&D were all behind me 100% and tried their best to resolve the problems in my favor.

That’s worth saying again.

Everyone in R&D, from my co-workers to my managers to the V.P. of the department were supportive of the requests I made. And for that I will be eternally grateful and humbly thankful. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be enough.

But I get ahead of myself.

CREATIVE RIGHTS

The job offer was a good one. Decent salary, great benefits (Wizards has ALWAYS had a super benefits package), and even automatic inclusion of my previous years of service (so I’d have started with 8.5 years of seniority on Day 1). The one problem, the ONLY problem was a condition of employment that bundled a Non-Compete policy with a Creative Rights policy.

I could get technical and talk about the terms, but the crux of the problem was this: The documents stated that anything I created, committed to paper, or even thought about during the term of my employment—whether on the job or at home in the middle of the night or while on vacation in Bora Bora—all of it was Intellectual Property belonging to Hasbro.

It is a particularly stringent version of a policy that isn’t so strange. After all, a company doesn’t want to train an employee, give him or her insights into how a business works, and then have that employee leave an open up a rival shop the minute a brilliant idea occurs to him or her.

That is the reasonable way to view it.

The unreasonable way to view it is that we all have many thoughts that have nothing to do with the company and workplace. And I, in particular, have a long work history and many different creative outlets, most of which are of no interest to Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro, and there is no good reason for them to get ANY claim to those creations just because they are paying me to perform a managerial role in their corporate structure.

When I told this to the H.R. representative who was presenting the job offer to me, she told me that they had a form that I could fill out to request exemptions. I told her that my reply to their job offer would depend on their reply to my exemption requests.

SEEKING EXEMPTIONS

I filled out the exemption request form five times, once each for the different creative functions I perform in my free time—writing fiction, drawing comics, doing manga localization, writing and illustrating children’s books, and being a co-owner of Super Genius Games. These exemption requests had to be approved by my manager, the V.P. of my department, and the V.P. of Human Resources.

My manager . . . actually, my managers because I had to get approval from both Chris Perkins (my direct manager) and Mike Mearls (the head of my business team). They both had been aware of my history AND of what I was doing in my off hours, and had no concern about it presenting a conflict of interest. They signed all five papers.

The V.P. of R&D called me into his office. He was already willing to sign the first four, but wanted to talk to me about Super Genius Games. After a discussion and exploration of the types of work the company did, and the fact that since beginning work at Wizards I had relegated myself to being a silent partner, he decided that it proved no conflict of interest. He signed all five papers.

I thought that was it, honestly. I figured that if the V.P. of R&D was okay with my plans, then they would be approved. I was, however, mistaken.

THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT

I can’t be sure exactly what happened next—I wasn’t directly involved in any of the meetings. But to the best of my understanding, the V.P. of H.R. rejected my requests. The V.P. of R&D asked my managers how important it was to keep me, and they said it was very important (another thing for which I am grateful and humbled), so he went back to argue the point.

When two V.P.s come to an impasse, the only way to resolve it is to go to the CEO. And I am given to understand that this is exactly what happened. Three members of upperest of upper management spent some amount of time discussing whether or not it was okay for me to retain the rights to cartoons and write children’s books that I create in my spare time, and the answer turned out to be “no.”

And when the CEO rules on a subject like that, there really is no recourse. That is the final word.

A DECISION DELAYED

This seems like a good place to wrap up for now. I’ll finish my tale and give you my final thoughts tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, I’ve got some work to do tending my ongoing Kickstarter campaign. Yes, I know I’ve told you about it before . . . but I’m telling you about it again. I’m NOT going to implore you to pledge money to the project (though if you want to, I’ll gladly accept it), but I AM going to once again ask for your help in spreading the word. If you could do that, it’d be a BIG help, believe me. Thanks!

One Comment

  1. Kenneth Hite wrote:

    Back at the dawn of my own brief Wizards time, I filled in one of those exemption forms with every single project I had contracted or scheduled to be contracted. At the time, this included a lot of projects for a lot of publishers, including most of Wizards’ direct competition.

    Then I got John Tynes to pay me a dollar retainer for any book I ever wanted to write for or with him, and added “Untitled John Tynes Collaborations (under NDA)” to my list.

    I got some weird looks when I turned the exemption form in, but to everyone’s credit, I guess it was approved. Then I was laid off the next Christmas anyway. So it goes.

    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

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