When dozens of Activision Blizzard employeesThis was the latest update in an annoying week for the company behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Activision Blizzard has been shaken When the state of California accused her of discrimination in the workplace against its female workforce.
The lawsuit, brought by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, says the company has a “little boy” workplace culture and alleges several troubling incidents of discrimination and harassment.
It didn’t take lengthy for the lawsuit to make an impact. Several employees have spoken out to support the claims, more than 2,000 have signed an begin letter calling for action by the company, and. After initially rejecting several of the DFEH allegations, Activision Blizzard said it would launch a packed investigation — and that its games would be changed to reflect the values of diversity and inclusion.
Activision Blizzard is one of the largest gaming companies in the world. It owns Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, and many other very popular franchises and final year posted a gain of $2.2 billion. Here’s everything you need to know about this massive lawsuit
What is Activision Blizzard’s accusation?
The DFEH lawsuit accuses Activision Blizzard of discrimination in the workplace. She claims that women are unfairly compensated – paid less for the alike job, are screened more often than their male counterparts – and are subject to significant harassment. The agency described Activision Blizzard as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination,” in which women are regularly sexually harassed by men (often lofty-ranking men) who often go unpunished.
Evidenced by the allegations made by the DFEH against Activision is an office ritual referred to as “cube creep,” in which men drink “ample” amounts of alcohol, crawl through office rooms and engage in “improper behavior” including harassment. The lawsuit describes incidents including allegations that an employee committed suicide during a business trip as a result of a toxic relationship with a supervisor.
“Women and girls now make up nearly half of the gamers in America, but the gaming industry continues to cater to men,” the lawsuit says. “Activision-Blizzard’s double-digit percentage growth, 10-digit annual revenue and diversified marketing campaigns have all changed unfortunately lately.”
And then the reaction of the staff?
After the DFEH filed its lawsuit, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement saying management had submitted a rushed and inaccurate report with “distorted, and in many cases incorrect, descriptions, [Activision Blizzard’s] the former. In an email sent to the staff, Posted by Jason Schreyer from BloombergVP of Corporate Affairs, Frances Townsend, said the site provided a “distorted and untrue image of our company, including untrue, outdated and out-of-context stories – some from over a month ago.”
It is clear that these statements did not satisfy the employees, neither the current nor the previous. More than 2,000 of them signed an begin letter to Activision Blizzard’s leadership criticizing the company’s response. (Activision Blizzard currently has about 10,000 employees.)
According to Bloomberg, the begin letter states: “To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.” “To claim that this is a ‘really irresponsible lawsuit not worth mentioning’ when you see many current and previous employees talking about their own experiences of harassment and abuse is simply unacceptable.”
The letter signed by the staff made three demands. First, the company must issue statements acknowledging the seriousness of the allegations. Second, that Townsend resigned from her role as executive sponsor of the Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait Female Employees Network. Third, Activision Blizzard’s executive leadership teamed up with employees to ensure a safe workspace to “talk publicly and move forward.”
How did Activision Blizzard respond?
After Activision Blizzard’s first statement, along with Townsend’s, was completely dismissed by employees, the company appears to be taking the lawsuit more seriously. On Tuesday, the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotik, issued a letter addressing the lawsuit, and employee concerns.
“Our initial responses to the issues we confront together, and to your concerns, have been, quite frankly, deaf,” it reads. “We are taking fast action to be the empathetic and caring company you come to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place in our company for discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any considerate.”
Kotick announced that a law firm, WilmerHale, will be contracted to evaluate the company’s “policies and procedures.”
After investigation, Kotick identified several changes that would become effective immediately. The company will investigate “every claim” of discrimination and harassment, and will host collaborative hearings with employees on how to improve workplace culture. Activision Blizzard will also “evaluate managers and leaders” across the company and make changes to employees as appropriate. Finally, changes will be made to the in-game content.
Kotick wrote: “We have heard input from the employee and player communities that some in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing this content.”
What about withdrawal?
Along with the begin letter signed by more than 2,000 employees, the company’s workers planned to strike Wednesday morning. Now seeking to be more cooperative with affected workers, Activision Blizzard on Tuesday sent an email to employees saying they would be taking paid time off to attend the protest.
Hundreds of employees accepted the show, setting up a picket line outside the Activision Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California. Staff carried signs that read “Every vote counts,” “Bad villains in the game, bad guys IRL” and “Nerf male franchise.” (When developers weaken characters in games like Overwatch, it’s known as “nerfing” them.)
More than 350 employees accepted the offer, according to the Washington Post. The opt-out participants acknowledged Kotik’s message, but they have four additional demands, as the tweet overhead shows. These include increasing wage transparency and employee participation in hiring and promotion policies.