Activision Blizzard sued by California for harassment of women

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Activision Blizzard

Photo: Rich Polk (Getty Images)

Activision Blizzard, the publishing giant behind everything, from Call of Duty at Monitoring, is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for a “frat boy” culture in the workplace that it says has led to years of harassment and abuse targeting the women in its workforce.

Content warning: suicide, harassment, rape

Bloomberg reports that the suit, filed July 20, is the culmination of a two-year ministry investigation of the publisher, which says Activision Blizzard’s “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue. “.

“To enforce such compliance,” indicates the case, “the DFEH is initiating this government enforcement action aimed at remedying, preventing and deterring [Activision Blizzard’s] violations of state civil rights and equal pay laws.

While highlighting the lack of women in management positions in the company and the difficulties they have encountered in obtaining promotions, the lawsuit also highlights huge pay gaps at managerial level between women and men. , and indicates that women are not only promoted more slowly, they are also fired “more quickly than their male counterparts”.

The corporate “frat boy” culture in the workplace is also mentioned as “fertile ground for harassment and discrimination against women”. Some of the examples provided include:

In the office, women are subjected to “cube crawls” in which the male employees drink copiously. [amounts] of alcohol when they “crawl” around the various cubicles in the office and often behave inappropriately towards employees. Male employees proudly arrive at work hungover, play video games for long periods of time on the job while delegating responsibilities to female employees, joke about their sex, openly talk about the female body and joke about rape.

Employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to constantly push back against unwanted sexual comments and advances from their male colleagues and supervisors, and being groped during “cube crawls” and other company events. High-ranking executives and designers have engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.

In one particularly tragic example, an employee committed suicide while on a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought anal plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.

The lawsuit also accuses Activision Blizzard of failing to respond to “many complaints” about harassment, discrimination and retaliation from male colleagues as a result of these complaints, and says affected employees were “more discouraged from complaining. because human resources staff were known to be close to alleged harassers. ”.

The DFEH has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction that will require Activision Blizzard not only to comply with state workplace laws, but also to deal with “unpaid wages, wage adjustments, arrears of wages and lost wages and benefits for employees ”.

In January of this year, Activision Blizzard called attempts to make his workplace more diverse “impractical”.

UPDATE: Activision responded to the prosecution of the DFEH with a long statement which calls for the DFEH and its prosecution “”irresponsible behavior of irresponsible state bureaucrats ”.

We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusiveness for all. There is no place in our business or our industry, or in any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all complaints. In cases related to misconduct, steps have been taken to address the issue.

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We were extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with abundant data and documentation, but they declined to inform us of any issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and have good faith discussions with us to better understand and resolve any claims or concerns before going to court, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are disgusted by the reprehensible behavior of the DFEH to drag in the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose death has no impact on this case and without regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior shameful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they behaved throughout their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats that are driving many of the state’s best companies out of California.

The image that DFEH presents is not today’s Blizzard workplace. Over the past few years and since the start of the initial survey, we have made significant changes to reflect the corporate culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation goal, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a hotline. confidentiality; and established an employee relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and have combined our employee networks globally to provide additional support. Employees are also required to undergo regular anti-harassment training and have been doing so for many years.

We go to great lengths to create fair and rewarding compensation programs and policies that reflect our culture and our company, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive measures to ensure that compensation is determined by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct in-depth anti-discrimination training, 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 employees, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a pity that the DFEH did not want to discuss with us what it thought it saw in its investigation.

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