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- "I have recommended your services to my... employers, and they have authorized me to offer you a job. They agree with me that you have limitlessss... potential."
- ―The G-Man to Gordon Freeman.[src]
The "Employers" are an enigmatic group that The G-Man is employed under, who are in a conflict with the inter-dimensional alien empire known as the Combine. Although not directly encountered by any of the protagonists, they take the role as the overarching antagonists of the Half-Life universe, due to pulling the strings behind major events throughout the series.
The mysterious employers are first referenced by The G-Man at the end of Half-Life, in which he saves Gordon Freeman following his killing of the Nihilanth. He reveals to Freeman that the border-world Xen is now under their control. He later offers Freeman employment with them, which Freeman accepts, resulting in him being put into stasis for approximately two decades.
G-Man saves Corporal Adrian Shephard after he kills the Gene Worm and before G-Man has Black Mesa destroyed with a nuclear bomb. G-Man mentions that the employers weren't interested in Shephard, but G-Man managed to overrule them in sparing his life, although this act meant that Shephard ended up being placed into some sort of detainment stasis to avoid him revealing the truth of the Black Mesa Incident.
When Gordon Freeman had failed to deliver the "tasks" set out by G-Man, G-Man manipulated a younger Alyx Vance (whom he had interest in since she was a small child back in Black Mesa) to come under his employment.
It is assumed that the In-game text messages that are displayed during certain sequences, such as introductions, endings, and game over scenarios in Half-Life series, are in fact reports that are submitted to the Employers by G-Man as evaluation of certain individuals who are considered for employment. So far only 4 people are known to have been evaluated, namely: Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance, both of whom were "Hired", Adrian Shephard who was "Detained" and Barney Calhoun who was "Out of Range".
- "Some believe the fate of our worlds is inflexible. My employers disagree. They authorize me to... nudge things in a particular direction from time to time."
- ―The G-Man to Alyx Vance[src]
After being released from the Vault, the G-Man explains to Alyx what he does for the Employers. He "nudges" things on Earth that causes the fate of that world to change. An example is his delivery of specimen GG-3883 and telling the Anomalous Materials team to boost the Anti-Mass Spectrometer to 105%, both of which causes the Resonance Cascade, and by extension, kicks off the entire Half-Life series. This would later lead to the Combine invasion.
Other examples of nudges include:
- Aiding or hindering Adrian Shephard's progress throughout the Black Mesa Facility.
- Placing Gordon Freeman in stasis, then taking him out, to oppose the Combine's rule over Earth.
- Manipulating Alyx into killing the Advisor that would kill her father, Eli Vance.
Interestingly enough, when G-Man asks Alyx what she would like "nudge" and she requested the Combine's removal from Earth, he declines, citing it was "too large, given the interests of my employers", which implies that he can only do so much at any given time or at all. This is further implied during his monologue in Episode Two, where he says he wishes he "could do more than keep an eye on his 'hires', but then he says he has agreed to abide by certain... restrictions." Ironically, his taking Gordon Freeman out of stasis was to fight the Combine, to essentially "nudge" them off Earth. However, G-Man could be saying this to offer Alyx a way to save her father.
- During the release of Half-Life, it was assumed that the employers were a government agency of sorts, especially with G-Man mentioning to Freeman that he confiscated his weapons due to it being government property. But during the later appearances of G-Man, it became clear the employers, like G-Man, are aliens.
- The comedic comic Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman appears to depict other groups of G-Men working under the employers, who are shown to be envious of the main G-Man from the Half-Life series. They are also shown to all look the same.