Activision Blizzard, the company behind the Overwatch and Diablo series, is now under fire by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. This is because it’s been instilling a “frat boy” workplace culture, leading to years of harassment and abuse targeting women in the workforce.
According to a Bloomberg report, the suit was filed on 20th July and was the result of a 2-year investigation into the publisher by the department. Activision Blizzard’s “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue”.
Here’s the bullet points version; there are bits of suicide, harassment, and rape, so there’s your content warning.
- There’s a lack of women in leadership positions; they face difficulties in gaining promotions and also enormous pay differences at the executive level. Women are not only promoted more slowly, but also terminated “more quickly than their male counterparts”.
- On that note, female employees are being held back from promotions because of the possibility that they might become pregnant.
- The company work culture is dubbed a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”. One example: 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 behaviour toward female employees.
- Another example: 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.
- 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.
Yikes. Activision Blizzard did respond to the lawsuit with the following statement, saying that this is all “irresponsible behaviour from unaccountable State bureaucrats”.
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.