Activision Blizzard, the publishing giant behind everything from At the call of duty to OverwatchThe California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing over the “student fraternity” culture it claims has led to years of harassment and abuse of women in its workforce.
Content warning: suicide, harassment, rape
Bloomberg reports that in suit, filed July 20, is the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Department against the publisher, which said Activision Blizzard “has a long overdue need for Activision Blizzard to comply with extensive California workplace protections.“
“To ensure compliance with such requirements,“ the case states: “DFEH is bringing government enforcement action to correct, prevent and deter [Activision Blizzard’s] violation of civil rights of the state and laws on equal pay ”.
Pointing to the lack of women in leadership positions in the company and the difficulties they faced in promoting their jobs, the lawsuit also highlights the huge differences in remuneration at the management level between women and men and says that women not only advance more slowly, they also leave. faster than their male counterparts.“
The corporate culture of the “student fraternity” in the company is also mentioned as “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”“ Some of the examples provided include:
In the office, women are exposed to a “crawl on the cube,” during which male employees drink copious drinks. [amounts] alcohol when they “crawl” in different offices in the office and often behave inappropriately towards employees. Male employees proudly come to work with a hangover, play video games at work for a long time, delegate their duties to employees, make fun of their sexual contacts, talk openly about women’s bodies and joke about rape.
Female employees are subject to constant sexual harassment, including constantly reflecting unwanted sexual comments and advances from their male colleagues and executives, and grope cube crawls and other company events. Senior executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment to no avail.
In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide while on a business trip with a male executive who took butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.
Situations were also noted where “female employees … were subjected to negative treatment due to their pregnancy,” (we announced in 2019 that Activision is committed to tracking employee pregnancies).
Leaders ignored medical restrictions on female employees and criticized them while on maternity leave. Other female employees reported that they were criticized for leaving to pick up their children from kindergarten, while their male colleagues were playing video games and female employees were kicked out of breastfeeding rooms so that employees could use the meeting room.
And cases where “women of color were particularly vulnerable targets” of “discriminatory practices.”“
One African American employee noted that it took her two years to become a full-time employee, and the men hired after her became full-time employees. She was also micromanaged so that her male colleagues were known to play video games without any interference from her boss, but her boss would call and check on her if she took a break to go for a walk. Another African American IT employee, unlike the men on her team, was under the control of his manager. When she asked for a day off, her manager made her write on one page a rundown of how she would spend that time, when no one else needed to do any reviews.
The lawsuit also accuses Activision Blizzard of failing to act on “multiple complaints” of harassment, discrimination and retaliation from male colleagues in those complaints, and states that affected employees “have no incentive to complain as HR employees were known to be close to alleged persecutors.“
DFEH has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction that will force Activision Blizzard to not only comply with state workplace laws, but also address the issue of “non-payment of wages, pay adjustments, non-payment of wages and loss of wages and benefits for women employees.”
This January Activision Blizzard called attempts to diversify his workplace “non-working”…
Update 7/21/2021 10:00 PM ET: Activision responded to DFEH’s lawsuit with a long statement saying that DFEH and its lawsuit: “irresponsible behavior on the part of irresponsible government bureaucrats.“
We value diversity and strive to create a workplace that offers inclusiveness for everyone. There is no place for sexual harassment or harassment of any kind in our company, industry or any industry. We take every claim seriously and investigate all claims. In cases of inappropriate behavior, steps have been taken to address the problem.
The DFEH includes garbled, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We worked closely with DFEH throughout the investigation, including providing them with extensive data and extensive documentation, but they declined to tell us what issues they noticed. They were required by law to investigate and discuss in good faith with us to better understand and resolve any claims or concerns before going to court, but they did not. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, which we will demonstrate in court. We are disgusted with the reprehensible behavior of DFEH, which has drawn into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose departure has nothing to do with this matter and without regard to her grieving family. While we find this behavior shameful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they behaved throughout the investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior by irresponsible government bureaucrats that drives many of the state’s best businesses out of California.
The picture DFEH is painting is not Blizzard’s workplace today. Over the past few years, and continuing since the initial investigation began, we have made significant cultural changes and reflected greater diversity in our leadership teams. We have updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize the strict avoidance of retaliation, expanded our internal programs and channels through which employees can report violations, including the Inquiry List with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an employee relations team to investigate staff concern. We have reinforced our commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion and brought together our networks of employees globally to provide additional support. Employees are also required to receive regular anti-harassment training, which they do for many years.
We work hard to create fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to fairly pay all employees for equal or similar work. We are taking a number of proactive steps to ensure that payments are subject to non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we provide extensive anti-discrimination training, including for those involved in the compensation process.
We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practice as an equal opportunity employer that contributes to the creation of supportive, diverse and inclusive jobs for our employees, and we are determined to continue these efforts in the years to come. It is unfortunate that DFEH did not want to discuss with us what they thought they saw in their investigation.
Update on 7/22/2021 5:40 AM ET: Other examples of the alleged treatment of mothers and black employees were added to the story.