Activision Blizzard Faces Lawsuit Over Harassment of Women, “Frat Boy Culture”
Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind hits like Call of Duty, Overwatch 2, and others, has been issued a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for a “frat boy” culture that led to the suicide of at least one female employee, discrimination based on sex, sexual harassment, among other issues that targetted female employees.
Why Was Blizzard Sued?
Trigger warning – Rape, harassment, sexual abuse.
Bloomberg reports that the suit has been in progress since 2018, which says that Activision Blizzard must comply with their guidelines, and that this suit is “long overdue.”
“To enforce such compliance,” the case says, “DFEH brings this government enforcement action seeking to remedy, prevent and deter [Activision Blizzard’s] violations of state’s civil rights and equal pay laws.”
Some highlights of the case include instances of “cube crawls” in which male employees would drink and then go around to various cubicles in the office, in which they would harass female employees. Some examples included were:
“In the office, women are subjected to “cube crawls” in which male employees drink copious [amounts] of alcohol as they “crawl” their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees. Male employees proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies and joke about rape.”
“Female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped at the “cube crawls” and other company events. High-ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.
“In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.”
Other instances in the shocking Activision Blizzard lawsuit include women being discriminated against due to pregnancies, kicked out of lactation rooms to conduct meetings, as well as instances of racial discrimination – women of color were particularly vulnerable to these practices.
“An African American employee noted that it took her two years to be made into a permanent employee while men hired after her were made permanent employees. She also was micromanaged such that her male coworkers were known to be playing video games without any intervention by her supervisor, but her supervisor would call and check on her if she took a break to go on a walk. Another African American employee, who worked in information technology, was similarly micromanaged by her manager unlike the men on her team. When she requested time off of work, her manager made her write a one-page summary of how she would spend that time off when no one else had to do any write-up.”
Additionally, and perhaps most horrifying – a female employee committed suicide while on a company trip paid for by Activision Blizzard, according to the lawsuit.
“In a tragic example of the harassment that Defendants allowed to fester in their offices, a female employee committed suicide while on a company trip due to a sexual relationship that she had been having with her male supervisor. The male supervisor was found by police to have brought a butt plug and lubricant on this business trip. Another employee confirmed that the deceased female employee may have been suffering from sexual harassment at work prior to her death. Specifically, at a holiday party before her death, male co-workers were alleged to be passing around a picture of the deceased’s vagina.”
Blizzard Responds to the Suit, Calling Investigation “Irresponsible”
Activision Blizzard has sent the following statement out to the press in response to the allegations laid out in the lawsuit. The main takeaway, they deny the allegations, and have called the whole investigation “irresponsible” and “the action of California beauracrats that’s driving away businesses from the state.”
The full statement follows:
“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.
The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.
The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.
We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.
We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.”