Activision Blizzard sued by California for gender discrimination

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Activision Blizzard has been sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for gender discrimination in the workplace.

The company that makes games, including World of Warcraft, Diablo and Call of Duty, has been accused of having a “frat boy” culture in which female employees are subjected to harassment, unequal pay, retaliation and failure to prevent harassment, it said. the lawsuit. .

That is in stark contrast to how the company described itself in its recent report On Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Commitments. In that report, Activision Blizzard said the number of women in game development leadership roles has doubled since 2016. And the promotion rates for minorities and non-minorities are equal, and the promotion rate for women is slightly higher than the rate for men. In a statement (included below), the company said today that the allegations do not represent the company today and that it has taken steps to address past misconduct.

The lawsuit comes after a two-year investigation by the state agency. The company said the company discriminated against female employees in terms of employment such as compensation, hiring, promotion and termination. The company’s leadership has consistently taken no steps to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, the agency said.

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In a way, these kinds of allegations are well known, as Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends and a neighbor of Activision Blizzard in Los Angeles, was also charged with sexually harassing women and had to pay a fine. Settlement of $10 Million in 2019. French video game publisher Ubisoft also faced numerous #MeToo allegations of sexual harassment in the past year.

Above: Call of Duty: Warzone is one of Activision Blizzard’s great games.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

The complaint was filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Women make up 20% of Activision’s workforce and are subject to a “pervasive frat boy work culture.” That culture reportedly encourages and tolerates sexual banter, rape jokes, unwelcome proposals and other degrading behavior, the suit claimed.

The suit said a female Activision employee took his life during a company outing with a male supervisor. Prior to her death, the employee was alleged to have been the victim of intense sexual harassment, including the distribution of nude photos at a company party, the complaint said.

The agency asked for a ban to enforce the terms of employment. It also asked the company to pay unpaid wages, wage adjustments, wage arrears and lost wages and benefits for female employees.

As of December 31, 2020, Activision Blizzard had 9,630 employees, compared to 9,234 a year earlier. Women make up 24% of the total workforce, while underrepresented minorities make up 34% of the total workforce. The company said in its own report that it is trying to improve those proportions, but it is no different from the overall gaming industry. The company has nine employee networks aimed at becoming a more inclusive company.

Here’s the company’s response:

We value diversity and strive for a workplace that offers inclusiveness for all. 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 involving misconduct, action has been taken to address the issue.

The DFEH contains distorted and in many cases false descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We cooperated extremely well with the DFEH during their investigation, including providing extensive data and sufficient documentation, but they refused to inform us of the problems they saw. They were required by law to conduct adequate investigations and conduct good faith discussions with us to better understand and resolve any claims or concerns before filing a lawsuit, but they did not do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the DFEH’s reprehensible behavior in bringing the tragic suicide of an employee whose death has no bearing on this case and without regard for her grieving family into the complaint. While we find this behavior disgraceful and unprofessional, unfortunately it is an example of how they behaved during their investigation. It is this kind of irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats that drives many of the best state companies out of California.

The picture that the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. In recent years and since the start of the initial survey, we have made significant changes to address corporate culture and reflect greater diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict focus on non-retaliation, expanded internal employee reporting programs and channels for violations, including the “QUESTIONNAIRE” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an employee relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion and combined our global employee networks to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

We go to great lengths to create fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and company, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially comparable work. We take several proactive steps to ensure that reward is determined by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and reward employees based on their performance, and we provide extensive anti-discrimination training, including for those who are part of the reward process.

We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer promoting a supportive, diverse and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It’s a shame the DFEH didn’t want to talk to us about what they thought they saw in their investigation.

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