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California is Suing Activision Blizzard Over a ‘Frat Boy’ Culture

Activision Blizzard

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing Activision Blizzard after a two-year investigation into the “frat-boy” culture the publishing giant has fostered, and the state of California mentions a workplace where female employees are subjected to sexual harassment and inequality.

Coming from Bloomberg, Activision Blizzard has been treating female employees as lesser beings regarding employment, including lack of compensation, promotions, assignments, and termination. Senior leadership has failed to ensure the safety of female employees by not preventing discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

The suit was filed on Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, mentioning that nearly 20% of female employees make up the workforce of Activision, and are working in a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” that includes a “cube crawl,” where the male employees get drunk and crawl through cubicles while engaging in often inappropriate behaviour regarding the female employees.

More of the allegations paint the male employees as coming to work hungover and would play video games during business hours, pushing their work onto the female employees while being explicitly sexual towards them, “and joke openly about rape.”

Women at Activision Blizzard are often overlooked or held back from seeing promotions due to their ability to become pregnant while judging them for leaving work to pick up their young children or being asked to leave the lactation rooms so the men can attend a meeting.

The lawsuit also highlights a horrifying situation where a female employee took her own life on a business trip after a male supervisor brought inappropriate items with him on the trip, this woman was also previously the victim of intense sexual harassment, “including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party.”

California’s suit is forcing Activision Blizzard to comply with workplace protections, addressing unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.

A spokesperson had this to say about the allegations against Activision Blizzard:

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.

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Bobby has been gaming since he was old enough to walk. Since then, the interest has only grown stronger, and here we are today. Follow Bobby on Twitter, and just go with it. @bpashalidis

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