Activision Blizzard sued by California for sex 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 such as World of Warcraft, Diablo and Call of Duty is accused of having a “frat boy” culture in which female employees are subjected to harassment, unequal wages, retaliation and failing to prevent the harassment, according to the lawsuit. .

This 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 that since 2016, the number of women in leadership roles in game development has doubled. And the promotion rates of minorities and non-minorities are equal, and the promotion rate of women is slightly higher than that of men. In a statement (included below), the company said today that the allegations do not represent the company today and that it has taken action to deal with wrongdoing in the past.

The lawsuit comes after a two-year investigation by the state agency. He said the company discriminates against female employees in terms of employment such as pay, assignment, promotion and termination. Company management has failed to take systematic steps to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, the agency said.

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In a way, these kinds of allegations are familiar, as Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends and neighbor of Activision Blizzard in Los Angeles, has also faced sexual harassment charges against women and had to pay a settlement of $ 10 million in 2019. French video game publisher Ubisoft has also faced numerous #MeToo allegations of sexual harassment over the past year.

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

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Women make up 20% of Activision’s workforce and are subject to a “pervasive culture of the brotherhood boys workplace.” This culture would have encouraged and tolerated sexual jokes, rape jokes, unwanted proposals and other demeaning behavior, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit indicated that an Activision employee committed suicide while on a corporate trip with a male supervisor. The employee was allegedly subjected to intense sexual harassment before her death, including circulating nude photos at a company holiday party, according to the complaint.

The agency has requested an injunction forcing respect for protections in the workplace. He also called on the company to pay unpaid wages, wage adjustments, wage arrears and lost wages and benefits for the employees.

As of December 31, 2020, Activision Blizzard had 9,630 employees, up from 9,234 a year earlier. Women make up 24% of all employees, while under-represented minorities make up 34% of the overall base. The company has said in its own report that it is trying to improve these ratios, but it is no different than the gaming industry as a whole. The company has nine networks of employees dedicated to becoming a business. more inclusive.

Here is the company’s response:

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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