On July 20, 2021, video game publisher Activision Blizzard has denied claims of harassment after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by Bloomberg Law claims that the working environment had a "frat boy" culture where male employees would "often engage in inappropriate behavior towards female employees."
The Department goes on to allege that the publisher discriminated against female employees, offering them lower salaries and contracts that differed from their male colleagues. In addition, the lawsuit claims that female employees experienced several sexual harassment incidents at the publisher's offices. One particular incident mentioned in the suit claims that a male supervisor delegated their responsibilities to a female employee so they had more time to play Call of Duty while at work.
Activision Sued By California
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing claims that it has tried to work alongside Activision Blizzard in a bid to address the problems taking place within the offices but the Department reveals that it "wasn't pleased" by the publisher's response to addressing inequality amongst employees in the workplace.
One of the more disturbing claims made in the lawsuit states that a female employee committed suicide while on a company trip after experiencing "intense sexual harassment" before their death.
Activision Blizzard released a statement to several outlets regarding the lawsuit, denying the allegations made and even calls the state of California "bureaucrats," claiming that several companies are looking at moving from the state due to the government. The full statement can be found below:
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.”